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What the Flames Couldn't Touch; At Georgetown Visitation, an Enduring History and Faith
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Washington, D.C.
Author: Rosenfeld, Megan
Date: Nov 20, 1993
Start Page: B.01
Section: STYLE

There was much that was lost in the awful fire, and much that was saved. They rescued irreplaceable archives that include some of the earliest slave records in the city, and other things more precious to the Visitation community than to anyone else. Like the head of Christ painted on china by an artistic nun in the 1880s, a replica of a Grecian antiquity dating from the Civil War period, the school's first prospectus from 1827. They lost the Odeum, the magnificent auditorium where John Quincy Adams addressed the graduates of 1828, bestowing prizes of books and work baskets and crowning three with garlands of flowers. They lost the Neale Room, filled with 18th- century antiques, favored by graduates as a setting for wedding pictures. And the two grand Steinways - irreplaceable - on which four girls played duet renditions of "Pomp and Circumstance" at every graduation.

While she watched the flames reach out from the school and lick the adjoining chapel roof, Sister Mada-anne Gell thought of the vow book lying upstairs in the monastery archives. The other nuns, many of them elderly and some bedridden, had been safely taken to rooms at neighboring Georgetown University, and now she worried that the fire would spread from the school, through the chapel and down the corridor where the book was stored. She ran up the stairs (luckily, most of the sisters wear black sneakers as part of their habits) and grabbed it.

Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, which was ravaged by a fire in July. The original damage estimate was $3.5 million, but the final tally could be twice that.; Sister Mada-anne Gell ran through the Visitation Convent during the fire to retrieve the book that sisters will use tonight to renew their vows.; The will of a Maryland man, which includes a list of slaves left to his daughter, survived the fire at the Visitation Convent.

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