Remembering Fall River’s Notre Dame, destroyed by fire in 1982

By News Staff

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FALL RIVER, Mass. (WLNE) – The world continues to mourn the loss of many irreplaceable relics and pieces of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, and for many in Fall River, The feelings are all too familiar, as the city lost it’s own Notre Dame church nearly 40 years ago.

Notre Dame de Lourdes Church once stood on Eastern Avenue in Fall River. The church burned down in 1982, but for many who were around back then, Monday’s news from Paris gave them a vivid reminder of that day.

“You never forget. You relive it constantly”, said Sexton Roland Masse, who was inside the building the day of the fire. “They are feeling now what we felt then.”

Masse said carpenters working on renovating the church reported a fire starting among the building’s roof timbers.

The fire was one of the most significant in the Fall River’s history. It completely wiped out the church and a number of neighboring buildings, leaving the community with tens of millions of dollars in damage

“What I remember about it was just this iconic church and all its valuable, iconic pieces going up in flames,” said current Fall River Fire Chief John D. Lynch. “Chief Louis Shea made a decision to sacrifice the houses left in that area, pull all his forces out, and make a stand on Pleasant Street, hopefully to save the Flint neighborhood. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Notre Dame in Fall River was eventually rebuilt a few years later, but the new building was never quite the same.

“The artwork, when you think of all the incredible artwork that was lost here, it breaks your heart. It was irreplaceable,” said Masse. He said the church burning was almost like losing a part of his family.

“I know how they feel in Paris”, Masse said. “And after all these year I feel the same way. It brings emotion into your body.”

©WLNE-TV / ABC6 2019