Claremont convent ravaged by fire to be razed
Late Monday afternoon, Claremont Fire Chief Rick Bergeron said the fire was about 99 percent extinguished. Firefighters were working with an excavator, who arrived Monday afternoon, he said. The excavator was pulling parts of the collapsed building away so firefighters could put out hot spots inside the walls of the old convent.
“We still had hidden spot fires burning inside the masonry walls,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron said he did not want to speculate on the cause of the fire, saying the state fire marshal’s office is leading the investigation into the cause. He expects a report of their finding to be released in the next day or so, he said.
The initial tone went out at 2:25 a.m. on Sunday, Bergeron said. The fire engine arrived on scene at 2:28 a.m. Five minutes later Bergeron arrived and said he knew right away the convent building was too far gone to save, but that the St. Mary School building — now the New England Classical Academy — next door, as close as 15 to 16 feet at some spots to the old convent, was in danger of catching fire.
“It was touch and go for a while as embers and ashes were dropping all over the neighborhood,” Bergeron said.
“That’s the good news,” he said. “The fact that we were able to prevent it from getting into the grammar school is the second piece of good news.”
The old convent building was built in the 1830s, but had not been used in years. The building, however, was important for its historic significance, Bergeron said. It was one of five Greek Revival style homes on Central Street.
St. Mary School was the oldest Catholic school in the state when it closed in 2009. A high school affiliated with the school closed about 45 years ago.
The former St. Mary School buildings are home to New England Classical Academy, a private school for kindergarten through high school. However, New England Classical did not use the former convent, which had been vacant for many years.