Lutheran steeple work creates quite a sight

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Greencastle resident Fritz Rushlow donned safety gear and accompanied a crew member to the top of Evangelical Lutheran Church to closely analyze the condition of the steeple.

Spectators watched last Wednesday as crews from Leeland's Slate Roofing took down the spire of Evangelical Lutheran Church, inspected the steeple, and made what repairs they could on the spot.

Robert Kendall was on the church grounds at 6:30 a.m. "It took them two hours to set up the cranes," he said.

The rented cranes were made by Grove and Terex, brought in because of the height of the steeple. The 125-year-old structure peaked at 140 feet.

Fritz Rushlow, a member of the church council, took off a day of work with the National Park Service. His expertise came in handy, since his job calls for him to restore historic buildings. He joined a crew member in an aerial basket to take a close look at the weather-proofing Leeland had just installed.

The old spire was set under the parking lot canopy, looking its age. Some of its molding, attached to a metal rod, had fallen off last spring, alerting the congregation to its condition. It showed evidence of rotting, due to moisture that entered the wood from inside the steeple. Leeland planned to replicate the spire, unless the church decided to replace it with a cross.

Seth Brinser used a tool just like builders used a century ago to cut pieces of slate. A couple dozen were readied to be put on the steeple. Mike Walters explained the attachment process. "We use stainless steel nail hooks, copper nails and adhesive."

The two were used to working up in the air, but maybe not as high as called for on that assignment.

"It's not a normal day for me," said Brinser, "but I love it. It's a magnificent view."

Rushlow said they would figure out how to design a rig to hoist bosun's chairs with rope, so for more repair work in the spring, the church wouldn't have to pay for the cranes again. They were a significant part of the $15,000 fee for services this time around.