The Shanghai Daily ran just a caption with the attached photo. Here is what they wrote:
Fire fighters battle a blaze early yesterday which broke out in an former church converted into offices in Shanghai. No one was injured in the fire, which started about 2:30am. Crew from 18 fire engines took about an hour to extinguish the flames. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire, at the intersection of South Suzhouhe Road and Yuanmingyuan Road. The 121-year-old building, formerly called New Tian’an Church, was converted into factory offices after 1949.
Chinese news stories say only the four main walls remain of what was once the Union Church, 107 Suzhou Nan Lu, which in its heyday used to be a prominent Shanghai landmark and gathering place. Until the fire on Wednesday morning, the church was the home of Shanghai Lighting & Lamp Co. (上海照明灯具厂办公楼). Several hundred square meters of the structure were demolished by the fire, reports said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Even the before the fire, the church, located on the south bank of Suzhou Creek just west of Huangpu Park and the Bund, was long past its prime, as you can see in the second photo attached. That image came from this page, which said:
Religious or foreign symbols were systematically erased by the Red Guard, as occurred here on the former Union Church, which had its once 108-foot high octagonal spire removed. The Union Church was the earliest church in Shanghai’s former British Settlement. Built in 1885, the church was designed by William Dowdall, an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects from 1882 and Fellow from 1891.
Tales of Old Shanghai has more on the Union Church’s history:
The Union Church traces its origin back to the earliest days of the Settlement. We find that the Rev. Dr. W. H. Medhurst of the London Missionary Society conducted services for foreigners in 1845 in the Shantung Road Compound, various members of the same Mission continuing these services for many years, among whom was the Rev. William Muirhead; but in 1864 the non-conformists organized themselves into a separate and independent church. In the same year the first Union Church was built on a part of the London Mission Compound in Shantung Road. After 21 years, the congregation purchased the present site on the corner of Soochow and Yuen-ming-yuen Roads, and in 1886 a new Church was opened which ever since has been known as the Union Church. A Sunday School Hall and a Manse were added in 1899 and the church was altered and enlarged in 1901.
Finally, we have this Shanghai Star piece from 2004:
Over a century ago, the finest place in the city was to be found in exactly this zone, from which the Bund originated. The grand British Consulate, which was destroyed in a major fire in 1870 but rebuilt in 1873, stood here. Close to it, the exquisite Union Church provided the most prominent landmark on the southern bank of the Suzhou Creek. Even as late as the 1920s and 1930s, this was still a zone appealing strongly to people.
But this original cluster of buildings gradually faded from people’s memory as time went by. Its current neglected situation has become distressing to some observers. The beautiful garden of the original British Consulate has lost its old elegance – now only overgrown weeds and withered trees are left.
The final photo, from Virtual Shanghai, shows Union Church sometime between 1900 and 1910.
UPDATE: This story says the church was slated for renovation and had been vacant for around a year. Authorities reportedly think “vagrants” using the church for shelter caused the fire.