Steeple being removed from Avondale church

November 19, 2013 (CHICAGO)

City crews will remove the steeple from Concordia Lutheran Church, located at Belmont and Washtenaw in the Avondale neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side. Belmont Avenue between Rockwell and California has been closed since Sunday's storms, and will stay that way during the removal.

Since 1892, the Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church has been a fixture in the Avondale neighborhood. Its steeple can be seen from blocks away.

"It's important for us to have the church a continued presence in community, but we want to be good neighbors, too," said Rev. Martin Doering, pastor.

And being a good neighbor means taking the 121-year-old steeple down after residents worried about their safety and took cell phone video of the steeple swaying in Sunday's storm. The city ordered the structure to be taken down after getting a firsthand look inside the steeple. 33rd Ward Alderman Deb Mell said she agrees it must be removed.

"What I hear is that there are eight bolts that hold it up; six are gone, two are holding it up," Mell said.

But preservationists say the steeple can be saved. Ward Miller with Preservation Chicago said he believes the city is overreacting in order to protect new developments that surround the church.

"I think the city has taken some very harsh, precautionary action to protect residents and Belmont Avenue," said Miller.

Engineers hired by the church say $20,000 worth of repairs would secure it. But the city does not want to risk it, so the church says it will have to come up with $100,000 for the removal costs, money the small congregation of 30 members does not have…

"We are in receivership, there is another group paying to have the steeple removed and we got to pay then back with our generosity," Doering said.

"We'll probably end up closing eventually because we don't have that kind of money," said church member Glenn Heckmann.

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