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Benwood’s burned church will be razed, rebuilt

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register file photo The burned-out building of St. John Catholic Church in Benwood can’t be saved, but the 140-year-old house of worship will be replaced, diocese officials announced.
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register file photo
The burned-out building of St. John Catholic Church in Benwood can’t be saved, but the 140-year-old house of worship will be replaced, diocese officials announced.

BENWOOD, W.Va. — The burned St. John Catholic Church will be razed and replaced with a new building, but the fate of the church’s rectory and school still remain to be decided.

Bryan Minor, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said Thursday an engineering report revealed the brick church is too unstable to save. Further assessments are needed for the rectory and SS. James and John School attached to the building.

Minor said the diocese already knows the school’s utility services are damaged along with heating and air conditioning system.

“There is some damage related to the fire, but it is not significant,” Minor said of the school. “There is some damage to the rectory, but we have to continue the engineering study on those two buildings. … We will take a second look at those after the church is razed.”

A date for razing of the 140-year-old church has not been set yet, but Minor said useable religious artifacts will be saved before it is torn down. They also plan to have the contractor save bricks for parishioners who want a piece of the old building.

“It will be built on the same site, but it won’t be a replica of the church. In terms of the design of the church, we have no ideas or preconceived concepts. That will come in the months ahead,” Minor said.

He added the church’s stained glass windows may be saved if it is safe for workers to do so.

The church caught fire on March 30. In addition to Benwood, several fire departments fought the blaze that could be seen from miles around. The state Fire Marshal’s office determined the origin of the fire was in a rear roof area, but deemed the cause undetermined. Arson was not suspected.

“Because the good people of St. John Parish have lost this historic part of their community, I wanted to announce as soon as possible that a new church will be built for them. The diocese is committed to making sure that St. John Parish continues to have a place of worship for its parishioners and the entire Benwood community,” Bishop Michael Bransfield said.

Minor said he did not know how much insurance money was on the church, but noted it had full coverage.

“They don’t build them like they used to, but whatever is built will be a holy place for residents of Benwood,” Minor said.

Until a determination is made about the school, students are expected to finish out the year, starting sometime next week, in the former St. Francis Xavier School in Moundsville.

St. Francis Xavier closed two years ago due to money problems.

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