Shortly after midnight on April 1, fire swept through the Oak Street Baptist Church and adjoining rectory located at 125 Oak St.

According to William Flynn, executive director of Oak Street Community Services (OSCS), the historic church was completely gutted in the blaze. He added that the Victorian rectory building next door, which housed the OSCS office and a 30-bed homeless shelter, sustained some structural damage, as well as water and smoke damage.

According to Flynn, the fire appeared to have started outside, between the two buildings.

“It was a warm night and the shelter wasn’t full”, he said. “We checked the grounds around 10 p.m. and saw nothing unusual, so we suspect the fire was due to a reckless accident of some sort”. At press time, the Fire Department had not determined the exact cause of the fire.

The two buildings, located on the comer of 2nd and Oak streets, were built in 1910 by the Lutheran Church. They survived the 1916 earthquake and fire, even though they were direct across the street from the fire line.

In 1960, the First Church of Bonham purchased the buildings and changed the name to the Oak Street Baptist Church.

In the 1980s, the church began to focus on the needs of the surrounding Main and Elm District communities and opened its doors to neighborhood groups seeking meeting space. (At the time of the fire, OSCS served over 4.000 people a week, and housed over 50 community groups, including a number of 10-step organizations.)

The homeless shelter was created in 1996, in response to a request from then-Mayor Alan Rogers. No residents of the shelter were harmed in the fire, and all have been relocated until OSCS can make repairs.

Although the church had fire insurance, the policy did not provide for total replacement of the buildings. The settlement will be, noted Flynn “only a fraction of what is needed to rebuild”.