The church was very influential in the history of West Orange, operating the first elementary and high schools in town.
The group was dwindling by the 1960's, and they were running out of money. It was added to the NRHP in the 1970's, but without the money to properly maintain the building the church soon began to fall apart. Preservation New Jersey listed it as one of the top 10 most endangered historic places in the state in the 1990's.
Despite the church's conditions, different groups held services in the building over the next decade. The current signs on the church said that a Spanish congregation was occupying the structure. However, the tall grass and boards on the doors said otherwise.
The last group to occupy the building left in 2009, and since then water has worked its way into the structure. A section of the roof above the altar area had started to show signs of damage, shedding shingles and slowly buckling.
Signs of hope emerged though, as groups had been seen touring and doing work to the structure in late 2013. The building has been re- secured, and I believe most of the relics left by the last congregation were removed at this time. The church building was officially sold in 2015, and the new owners did a bunch of work to the structure. This included illegally removing several of the windows of the historic building. The beautiful old stained glass was removed and several tiny vinyl windows were installed as replacements.
Then on the first day of 2016, residents awoke to news that the church was being gutted by a large fire. Sure enough, the three alarm blaze completely destroyed the St. Marks Church. The renovation of the structure was supposed to give the building a new life. After the the brazen removal of the windows, it was clear to many that the buildings new life was not going to be what we expected. But we didn't anticipate it to be so short.