Demolition to begin, steep collapse closes roads at historic New London church – NBC Connecticut

Roads were closed on Friday after a steep building collapsed on the 200-year-old church on Thursday.

Firefighters and a structural engineer use a ladder truck to inspect the church from above Friday afternoon before demolition begins.

Portions of State Street, Union Street and Masonic Street will be closed Friday.

Engaging Heaven Church belongs to the church on Union Street in New London, built in 1810. An addition was added in 1975, according to property records.

The steeple has been a local landmark.

“From where I live on Huntington Street, look at the parking garage here, I could see the pillar. When I looked out this morning, it was gone,” said Ken Sendell of New London.

It is not known what caused the collapse.

A crane arrived at the site on Friday morning.

New London mayor Michael Passero said it was one of the city's oldest religious structures.

“We've suffered a very serious setback in downtown New London, losing one of the oldest and certainly the most beautiful religious structures in the city,” Passero said.

Engaging Heaven Church reported that a woman was inside the church when it collapsed and was able to get out safely. There was no one else inside.

This picture shows what the church looked like before and after the collapse.

The church is next to New London City Hall and the Manwaring Building, which houses Connecticut College students, and students have been evacuated.

“Yes, it's me. I'm sitting on my couch and I hear what sounds like the loudest thunder I've ever heard. I open my eyes and see dust and rocks rolling down that hill, and I get up and run through the window thinking the church is falling down.” said Connecticut College student Nick Moosey.

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Fifty students have been evacuated and moved to the New London Holiday Inn, and the New London Red Cross will assist the students.

Connecticut College's dean of students said he is talking with church staff to see if there are ways they can offer help.

Engaging Heaven Church said they don't yet know where they will worship on Sunday, but they are working on it.
People who witnessed the collapse described what they saw.

“I was sitting in my car and I heard a loud, thunderous sound. I looked to my left and when I first saw the church it was full, and in that split second, the whole middle of the church collapsed,” said Lester Harris of New London.

Mayor Passero will announce the church and the city's response on Friday at 3 p.m.

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