Downtown church rises again after 2006 fire

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A historic downtown landmark has almost risen from the ashes of a fire that destroyed its building, but not its soul, more than a decade ago.

The sanctuary of First United Methodist Church at Poplar and Second burned in a fire that swept through north downtown in Oct. 2006. But the congregation, which dates to 1826, decided to stay put.

A steel skeleton of a building has stood at the corner for years. After the recession slowed down the project, construction work finally began in April and is now about 70 percent complete, said Don Sloan with contractor Chris Woods Construction.

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A new steeple will arrive in about a month and in a couple of weeks, workers will install a decorative limestone main entry that was salvaged from the 1893 structure. Bricks and curtain windows are going up now.

“The design is to let as much natural light into the building as possible,” Sloan said.

The tight streets and traffic downtown have made construction a bit of a challenge, but Sloan expects the building to be complete by late January or early February.

The church has recently launched a “very aggressive” fundraising campaign to finish its interior, he said.

“We’re really excited to be a part of it.”

Total costs are pegged at $4.1 million.