Chemist william Kinard spreads absorbent salt that detects traces of petrol or kerosene ~ above the church floor. (Steve Mellon/The Pittsburgh Press)





A movie manufacturing crew come in Ben Avon in 1991 and also suddenly the small borough of broad-shouldered trees and also turn-of-the-century houses was transformed. A an extremely convincing fake house arised on Woodland avenue (the house had actually no structure or plumbing and also its stairwell walk nowhere) and also children when again streamed native the prior doors that the exit Ben Avon elementary school School.

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You’ve gotta love Hollywood.

The crew to be filming “Lorenzo’s Oil,” a drama certification Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte as parents established to discover a cure for the rare, deadly genetic condition afflicting your young child Lorenzo. Production would reason quite a stir on Ben Avon, however in the middle of every the movie magic, an ugly fact elbowed its method into the script.

Early ~ above the morning of Oct. 22, fire damaged a much-loved and stately rock church located across the street indigenous the movie set. A black-and-white photo published in The Pittsburgh push that day mirrors the frame of a enormous stained glass home window silhouetted against a wall of white flame. The structure was hopelessly engulfed through a blaze that showered a three-block area v red-hot embers.

For eight decades, the Woodland joined Presbyterian Church stood together a cornerstone the Ben Avon. It to be a ar of weddings, baptisms, public meetings, ar theater performances, education and learning and, of course, worship.

Woodland had an unified with adjacent Ben Avon Presbyterian Church in 1987, for this reason at the time of the fire few worship services were held there. Still, the church to be a liven place, house to church offices, archives, a preschool and also a number of community programs. Inhabitants took the loss hard. “It’s being encountered like a fatality in the family,” stated an assistant pastor.

Within days, a team the investigators from the office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms started sifting and shoveling v the debris. Intense warm had burnt every timber surface other than the sanctuary floor. The slate roof had collapsed and, in some sections of the church, collapse with enough force to reason the floor below to give way. Pews had disintegrated in place, leaving rows of ashes and also scorched planks. Except for the swishing sound of a broom provided by an ATF certified dealer to conference ashes, the sanctuary to be eerily quiet.

The ATF established an arsonist to be responsible for the inferno that destroyed a beloved structure and also decades of records reflecting the spirituality life that the community. Who started the fire? The question remains unanswered. No arrests were made.

Elements of the church have the right to still be found in the community. Woodland’s bell, cornerstone and also four stone windows were included into an addition to the an unified church, neighborhood Presbyterian Church the Ben Avon.

How go the Hollywood people react? Well, despite the loss of a structure that loomed for this reason prominently in a grasp of scenes, filming of Lorenzo’s Oil continued on schedule. Producer did do one convey — 3 weeks later they filmed firefighters battling a recreation the the church blaze for this reason a scene can be written into the manuscript explaining alters in the church’s appearance.

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Of course, you have the right to watch Lorenzo’s Oil if you’re interested in see the forest Church as it remained in its final days. It’s over there in among the movie’s beforehand scenes, as the child Lorenzo arrives home from school and also is greeted by his beaming mother. The characters have no idea condition and disaster await. The church’s red door and also high peaked roof administer a perfect backdrop.