2010-12-09 / Church News

Arson Gutted Civil War- Themed Chapel

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) – A fire that destroyed a controversial Civil Warthemed chapel in Gettysburg was set intentionally, police said Saturday.

There are no official suspects, but investigators are seeking three teens reported to be in the area at the time of Friday’s pre-dawn blaze, borough Officer William Gonzalez said.

The arson ruling has left chapel owner John Wega “overwhelmed with sorrow.’’

Wega founded the log chapel a few years ago to tell the story of Christianity during the Civil War. Borough officials ordered the downtown site vacated in November because the structure no longer meets building codes.

The chapel drew officials’ attention after a snowstorm damaged its original canvas roof. Wega replaced it with a roof that includes wooden beams, meaning the structure could no longer be considered temporary.

Wega said the work required to meet building codes would cost up to $10,000 – about as much as it cost to build the chapel. Renovations would include raising the roof to meet the 24-foot minimum and possibly installing bathrooms.

Because of the dispute, the chapel doors were shut and the gate padlocked the night before the fire, said Wega’s attorney, Randall Wenger.

Hiram Sasser of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, a conservative group helping Wega in his legal dispute with the borough, said the chapel will be rebuilt in the same location.

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