Members of the Portuguese Club of Hartford viewed their fire-damaged building in Newington Sunday and vowed to bring it back.
“We’ll rebuild,” said Joe Oliveira of Newington, a 42-year member and former vice-president of the 500-person club, founded in 1927.
A fire Saturday afternoon raced through much of the interior, causing significant damage.
“We’ll reopen, but it will take some time,” Oliveira said. “We were planning to have a New Year’s event. Now we’re scrambling, trying to find another place to hold 300 people. It won’t be easy.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Andrew Elvas of Hartford, who is the club’s second secretary. “I’ve grown up here, celebrated our cultural heritage here. It’s sad seeing it like this.”
A steady stream of club members stopped by the building at 730 North Mountain Road in Newington. The fire broke out 2 p.m. Saturday inside the rear of the building. The half-dozen club members who were inside at the time escaped uninjured, but one firefighter suffered an ankle injury and was brought to a hospital for treatment.
The cause is under investigation. On Sunday, windows in the brick building were sealed tight with boards Charred building material littered the ground in the rear of the clubhouse. Soot and scorch marks stained exterior bricks.The acrid stink of fire was in the air outside.
“It’s sad to see,” Oliveira said. “The club is 90 years old. All the years of work here. … But we will repair it.”
On the club’s Facebook page, officials wrote that recovering from the fire will require support of all members and the entire Portuguese-American community.
“The Portuguese Club of Hartford is more than just a building, it is an idea, a collective of individuals whose mission for over 90 years has been to sustain and promote the traditions, culture and heritage of our ancestral homeland, Portugal, from generation to generation,” club leaders wrote.
The club is home to the Hartford Portuguese Soccer Team and the Rancho Folclorico do Clube Portugues de Hartford, the longest running Portuguese folklore group in New England.