One day recently Dirk Sauer was driving north on MO 79 when it struck him that something was missing from Hannibal's skyline - the First Presbyterian Church's steeple. And while the church's wind-damaged steeple was brought down in two pieces earlier this month, work on the bell tower was ongoing Wednesday.
"We're going to take down the parapet walls until we find some sound brick," said Dan Bush, owner of Hannibal Crane Service. "Anything that's cracked or anything that's bad we're going to take out. Then we're going to get it leveled up and set a temporary roof on top of it to keep the weather and elements out of it."
According to Sauer, who is a member of the First Presbyterian Church, a structural engineer will likely have the final say as to when "it will be safe to start building back."
The condition of the bricks around the top of the tower was worse than first thought.
"That's why we're taking it down a brick at a time, so nothing is falling on the roof or nothing is falling out on the sidewalk. The mortar is coming loose real easy," said Bush, who had a pair of men working with air chisels to carefully chip the old mortar loose so that bricks could be placed in a metal box and lowered to the ground.
The work was not proceeding quickly.
"It's slow and today is supposed to be in the 90s, so it may be a real long day," said Bush a little after 10 a.m. Wednesday when the temperature was already pushing 90.
It will likely be this fall before the congregation decides what, if anything, to put on top of the bell tower.
"It's a change," said Sauer of not having a steeple on the church that was dedicated on Sept. 15, 1895. "Maybe some people will decide they'd like a change on the appearance. The preponderance of opinion at this point is a steeple. I kind of think that's what it's going to be."
While a new steeple may be erected, the bell tower beneath it may be empty.
"There is serious consideration being given to removing the bell because of its size and weight, and the damage that has happened. A decision has not been made yet to do it," said Sauer. "The evidence seems to indicate that because of the age and damage that occurred above this level, it would just be a good idea to get as much weight out of there as we can."
If the bell is removed from the tower, it would be refurbished and repainted.
"Then we'll have to make a determination whether we put it on our south lawn, or at the corner out here. That's something that would have to come later," said Sauer. "We've got the bell, and if we go with something different, we'll also have that cross and cap that we had left from the old steeple that we now have in the corner vestibule here."