COVENTRYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) - A church nearly two centuries old
burned to the ground after a lightning bolt struck its steeple.
The 199-year-old First Congregational Church in this hamlet 55
miles south of Syracuse was destroyed late Wednesday.
The blaze, reported at 10:55 p.m., spread from the two-story
wood church to the Coventry Town Museum next door. The exterior of
the former one-room school house, built in 1857, was heavily
damaged, the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin reported in Friday
editions.
Parishioners on Thursday uncovered the church's badly melted
brass bell.
"The church was of Greek revival, complete with pillars. It was
a gem," said Phyllis Lerwick, the museum director, town historian
and councilwoman.
The congregation was planning a 200th anniversary celebration
for July 2004.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)