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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Wind-damaged steeple now deemed hazard

  • For many people, a church steeple is a sign of stability. In Hannibal, the wind-damaged steeple of the First Presbyterian Church has been deemed a hazard that must be brought down, before it can fall down.
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  • For many people, a church steeple is a sign of stability. In Hannibal, the wind-damaged steeple of the First Presbyterian Church has been deemed a hazard that must be brought down, before it can fall down.
    After the May 20 severe storm pounded Hannibal, it was thought only the cross atop the church’s steeple was tilted. But it wasn’t long before people began noticing that more than the cross was askew.
    “A friend of mine took a picture of it from back a ways and asked if I saw anything unusual about it. I said it looked like it was leaning,” said Dirk Sauer, a member of the church. “Before the day was done we were getting calls and communications saying the steeple is leaning.”
    A structural engineer was consulted. Broken timbers were discovered in the top part of the church’s bell tower and at the steeple’s base.
    “There are some real structural problems up there,” said Sauer.
    The damage is significant enough that on-street parking areas around the church on Sixth Street, and an entire half-block section of Center Street are barricaded.
    As another precaution, the congregation will hold its Sunday services in the basement.
    “It will be crowded,” said Sauer. “We did back in the early ‘80s when the sanctuary was being completely renovated and the new organ was being installed. It’s doable.”
    Sauer doesn’t foresee meeting in the basement for long.
    “If they can get that steeple down next week then they’ll be able to meet in the sanctuary the week after that,” he said. “It’s just the danger of the steeple falling that is causing the problem right now. Once that is removed then there’s no reason why we can’t use the sanctuary again.”
    The steeple, which dates back to when the current building was dedicated on Sept. 15, 1895, will be dismantled and lowered to the ground.
    After weathering countless powerful storms over the past century-plus, Sauer wasn’t expecting a problem to arise.
    “I was extremely surprised because it had never happened in 117 years and the winds were powerful enough to have done that kind of damage. I was very taken aback by the fact that it happened,” he said, noting that winds during the storm were estimated to have reached 100 mph. “Apparently we’ve either been very fortunate, I would use the term blessed, that it’s never happened in the past. This time it hit just right for whatever reason and caused this to happen.”
    The current steeple was once one of many atop the structure, according to Sauer.
    Page 2 of 2 - “When that building was built there was that steeple and there was even a minor steeple on the other bell tower to the south. There were mini-steeples on each corner where you have a capped corner piece now,” he said. “At some point that lesser steeple was taken down. That one has been gone a long time.”
    Will the steeple be repaired and returned to its perch?
    “There will be decisions about reconstruction, but that will come later,” said Sauer. “Unless for some reason it would become cost prohibitive from either the church’s or insurance’s standpoint, I could not imagine it would not be replaced. But it’s still too soon to know answers to those kinds of things.”

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