MELROSE -- Soot covered walls, charcoaled ceilings and the smell of smoke remain from a tragic fire inside an over 100-year-old church in Melrose.

Authorities believe an arsonist started the blaze inside Saint Mary's Church back on March 11th. Which is what grounds chairman George Traeger thought when he heard where the fire started.

"With my knowledge of the church there was nothing there to burn, it was not an area that could have started itself," says Traeger.

From the street you can only see a small bit of damage, but walk through the front doors and it's a whole new perspective -- a $5-million perspective.

"The shingles on the roof, the insulation in the attic, the main body of the church, everything needs to be fixed," says Traeger.

With the community unaware of what was inside, parish leaders felt it was time to open the doors and show what the church has become.

"We've had more than 1,300 visitors come to see the damage, so you can see they are concerned," says Traeger

Even with the devastation, some believe the fire is a blessing in disguise showing how important a church is to a community.

In the meantime, a steering community has been set up to figure out what to do next.

Traeger says they hope to have restoration costs next month and possibly begin reconstruction in the fall.

"We're hoping this will be a winter project for the contractors with the hope they can complete the project within a year," says Traeger.

A $7,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the conviction of the ones responsible.

(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)