2006-04-15 / Top News

Historic Steeple To Get Repairs

By Karen Gould

Money is being sought to renovate the steeple of Ste. Anne's Catholic Church, which rises 120 feet above Main Street. The building was constructed in 1874 and serves more than 70 registered Mackinac Island parishioners year-around. During the summer months, visitors are drawn to services at the parish, which is more than 300 years old. Money is being sought to renovate the steeple of Ste. Anne's Catholic Church, which rises 120 feet above Main Street. The building was constructed in 1874 and serves more than 70 registered Mackinac Island parishioners year-around. During the summer months, visitors are drawn to services at the parish, which is more than 300 years old. By Karen Gould

Costs could reach $200,000 for the steeple renovation at Ste. Anne's Catholic Church, and church leaders now are seeking help from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, where a collection fund for donations has been established.

The steeple serves as a landmark rising toward the East Bluff and is clearly visible to visitors arriving at the harbor.

The building was constructed in 1874, and the Island parish dates to 1670.

Plans to restore the steeple began four years ago, and about $55,000 in donations have been collected, but more is needed and time is running out to replace the rotting wood that will eventually cause more damage to the structure.

Four years ago, contractors estimated the renovation could cost up to $200,000, and church officials may have to seek a loan from the Marquette Diocese if donations fall short of renovation costs.

Two funds have been established with the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, said Executive Director Jennifer Bloswick, a passthrough account to collect money for the steeple restoration, and an endowed fund to collect donations earmarked for the perpetual care of the church building.

"Ste. Anne's Church is one of the most historic and important buildings on Mackinac Island," she said, "and I am delighted the Mackinac Island Communication Foundation is going to be assisting them with this worthwhile project."

Mike Gamble of M.P. Gamble Construction has been asked by the parish to provide a new estimate for the cost of the renovation. He is hampered, he said, because the steeple is about 120 feet high, and difficult to reach.

The steeple, itself, is structurally sound, he said, but he could see rotting wood a few years ago when he was replacing some aluminum siding that had come off the bell tower. For that job, he was on an 80foot lift, which brought him only to the base of the bell tower, 40 feet below the top.

More siding blew off this spring during a storm, he noted.

Buildings and grounds committee member Urvana Morse said weather has caused the outside structure, including the molding and louvers, to rot.

"Eventually, the bones of the structure would be affected if the rotting wood is not taken care of," she said.

"The tower's condition is not a hazard right now, but we don't want it to become a hazard," she noted. "We feel we have to address the repair now."

Church leaders already realize this will be a costly project, noting that a 130-foot lift will be required to perform the work. Mrs. Morse said there are only a few such lifts in Michigan and they rent for $10,000 a week.

Mayor Margaret Doud, who chairs the parish council, said the parish also would like to replace the steeple and church roof during the renovation project, since that also will require a lift, but the final decision will depend on available funds.

The project could begin as early as this fall.

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