Staff Publications

Journal of Architectural Conservation

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If Your Church Is Damaged By Fire, How Do You Document It To Satisfy Your Insurance Company?

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine is the third largest church structure in the world. It is located on the upper west side of Manhattan in New York City. A fire in December of 2001 badly damaged the stonework of the unfinished north transept and spread thick black smoke through the entire building. After the fire, a comprehensive investigation was undertaken to identify the unique characteristics of the fire soil and then to use that information to determine the extent to which these materials had deposited on surfaces in the building. A direct correlation was made between the materials of construction that burned during the fire and the particles present in samples of soiling removed from throughout the Cathedral. It was therefore possible to establish that the fire soil had penetrated to all areas of the Cathedral and that all surfaces required cleaning. This paper describes the techniques used to carry out the investigation.