Members of downtown Raleigh church recall massive fire from 1956

The church damaged after the 1956 fire. Photo from Edenton Street United Methodist Church.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A downtown Raleigh church spent part of Sunday still in recovery after Thursday’s fire.


And for one couple, the most recent monster blaze was Deja vu.

“I mean the whole steeple was on fire,” said Alice Sharpe. “I was scared to death.”

What Sharpe is describing isn’t last Thursday’s fire.

It’s from 1956 when lightning struck the Edenton Street United Methodist Church, igniting a massive downtown Raleigh fire.

She said the recent fire at the apartment construction site feels like a fiery flashback.

“Let me tell you we, we’re getting out of here when the slight roof fell off intact. It fell off in one piece down into the parking lot,” she said.

Little was left, but a bible did survive the flames.

It now sits as a reminder of the community’s resilience.

They did not slow down.

Robert and Alice Sharpe

Sharpe said the next week after the fire, they went to church.

That tradition continues decades later.

On Sunday, several events including, morning services, could not be held in the youth center, a building damaged by Thursday’s fire.

That didn’t stop the families. Instead, they relocated.

Youth Pastor Rush Bean says it’s a minor inconvenience compared to what other downtown residents are now dealing with.


“For us, that means this is a time of need. So, we step up if we don’t have a place to worship who cares if we’re not taking care of our neighbors before or afterward,” Bean said.

For Alice and her husband Robert, after seeing a large fire again half a century later, they’re thankful and proud.

The couple says that spirit is what makes this community so special.

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