Thursday, May 30, 2013

Casualty of the Storm

The violent thunderstorm we had last night toppled the smaller steeple on the church building on Sixth and Columbia streets. This was the scene early this morning.

Originally St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, the building now houses Henry Hirsch's Waterfront Studios.

Thanks to Jamison Teale and Timothy Dunleavy for alerting Gossips to this catastrophe.

See also John Mason's story in the Register-Star: "Church steeple falls to wind or lightning."


  1. Interesting, all the lengths of wood that were inside it. Why? Giving it heft? (Clearly, my knowledge of steeple design and construction is seriously deficient. Oh well.)

  2. I was sorry to read in R-S that the owner plans to just cap it off.
    It is currently on the market, and many pictures of interior can be found at:

    I hope the owner will save as much as possible from the rubble and that the next owner will replicate the tower.

    Virginia, my son has a Richardsonian Romanesque home with a tower, built in late 1800's. The tower is open to the 3rd floor room and one can see the construction. The 'base' is large beams in the ceiling, forming an octagon, parallel to the floor. Rising up, skyward from these beams, are other large beams that come to a 'point'. The space between them, an under roof, so to speak, is filled in with wide boards, running horizontally. Over this is a slate roof.
    It very beautiful and dramatic, however you can see daylight coming through in several places (read heat going out). Covering the ceiling of the tower is next on their to do list.
    So, I hope this explains all the wood in the pile of rubble.

  3. This building is in the Warren Street Historic District, over which the HPC has purview. I'm fairly certain that simply "capping over" will be an acceptable temporary fix, but what's the long term plan? The article seems to imply that the property is insured. Guess what--they're on the hook for this--they have to pay to replace the steeple. Oh, they'll do their best to duck it, as insurance companies do. The HPC must demand replacement in kind and demand that that bldg owner pursue the claim. If anybody needs a detailed estimate to make the insurance company do the right thing I'm there for them. Free.

  4. So many churches have the steeples capped off.Makes the buildings look stumpy and disproportionate...because you do not see the beautiful steeple..that needed that base. Just walk around. It was done because of an incident with lighting or to prevent one from happening. My ancient father, when I showed him the photos of St.John's last night ,said what's wrong with these people...lightning rods were invented by Benjamin Franklin... don't mind him. But I do hope this beautiful building ,will be able to be restored. I am worried by reports of a cracks in the main Steeple. Even though I have had crossed swords with Mr. Hamilton ,in regards to certain historic Galloway projects...he really ,seriously and by reputation,does know his craft.....which is why he pissed me off.. but regardless..... I truly encourage the owners to accept his generous offer.He is the man with the knowledge ,with the task at hand and has stepped up,on his own time to help.

  5. @Prison Alley: Thank you.

    To give all an idea of how the insurance companies work, consider the damage caused by hail storms to slate roofs. Whenever a big storm hits, particularly outside the Eastern Corridor (i.e., from the Deep South across Texas, Oklahoma and the Midwest) they send their adjustors out as fast as possible to all clients with slate roofs who indicate a claim. Not knowing any better, and with a check for an enormous amount offered, homeowners, churches, and the stewards of other institutional structures seize on the opportunity.

    Especially when the adjustor leverages the "exposed" roof (threat of water damage) and offers one of their crews to quickly make things water tight until repairs can happen. And, if you balk at their offer, they threaten that they cannot be liable for further water damage if it occurs. Big scam, high pressure tactic.

    So, let's say its a million dollars to replace the roof with slate, or $225k with asphalt shingles. They'll offer a check for $250k to $300k because they know "projects can overrun cost estimates," etc., and they're such good guys. But, when you look at the agreement, none of the verbal banter is there. Nor is the concession that the roof needs replacement; simply $XXX thousands to repair the roof.

    Interestingly, there are slate and clay tile roofing companies, called "storm chasers" who mobilize every time one of these events occurs. And they have a sales staff that descends on the area, educating the building owners as quickly as possible BEFORE the adjustors arrive. In fact, once an adjustor meets with a client and learns that a storm chaser has already been there they don't even fight it.

    Long story to get to this point: IF the building owners were paying to insure this building, then ALL of the building IS protected. That includes the short steeple. And, because its in both local and NRHP historic districts, it needs to be replaced in kind. While the adjustor is there, have them take a look at the tall steeple, if structural issues are suspected. A good outfit will invest in an engineering study (and even stabilization measures) if it means averting a multi-million dollar claim.