It was 100 years ago that fire destroyed the upper story of the combined church and school building at St. Andrew Parish on Northeast 9th and Alberta in Portland.

The roof collapsed and a pile of jumbled blackened timbers filled the prayer space. Amazingly, the statues above the altar survived unharmed. The fire loss was almost entirely covered by insurance.

The blaze began early on March 6, 1920. No one was in the church when the fire broke out, but there had been a Mass the previous evening.

During the blaze, Father T.P. Kiernan, pastor, entered the church to save the sacred vessels. Though the priest never locked the sacristy, it was bolted that morning. That gave rise to suspected arson. It was an era of virulent anti-Catholic bigotry when the Ku Klux Klan was on the rise in Oregon. But wiring got the blame.

The parish had been established in 1907 and the structure was built in 1908 at a cost of $25,000. The lower floor of the building contained classrooms and the upper floor was used for worship before the current church was built in 1929.

Father Kiernan celebrated Mass in a tent the next morning and school resumed on the lower floor the next Monday. The upper floor was restored and is still in place, being used as part of St. Andrew Nativity School.