DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Officials at a church in Detroit are seeking permission from the city’s historic committee to remove the structure’s aging spires.
The finance council of Sweetest Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, off I-75 and Canfield, appeared before the Detroit Historic Commission on Wednesday to propose removing the spires.
Council members said the spires are in poor structural condition and are at risk of collapsing. Council President Paul Vandenheede said fixing them would cost the church $1.3 million, which he said it currently can’t afford.
The commission has tabled the issue until its next meeting because it was unable to reach the required votes for approval or denial.
“At some point these spires are going to collapse if nothing is done,” Vandenheede said. “If we fail to act, it could result, heaven forbid, in the loss of life.”
Local historian Dan Austin said he thinks the spires can be preserved and that they’re the defining architectural feature of the church, which opened in 1893.
“Sweetest Heart of Mary is one of the most beautiful churches in the city,” he said. “I think a large part of its appeal is it’s a destination for weddings and photographers. It would be defacing a work of art to remove those steeples at this point.”
Commissioner Dennis Miriani thinks there are options other than demolition and asked if an engineer could make temporary fixes to the spires.
“I don’t see where anybody has come out there to see what we can do to stabilize them for the next few years,” Miriani said. “My point is that I don’t feel that I have enough information to say that these need to come down today because they are going to fall over.”
In November 2013, the main steeple at the nearby St. Josaphat Church, along Canfield on the other side of I-75 from Sweetest Heart of Mary, was damaged by storms with wind gusts of up to 70 mph, which left a noticeable curve in the steeple. The church temporarily closed because the steeple was found unsafe. Early on, crews feared the steeple would have to be taken down. But it was eventually repaired after the church raised tens of thousands of dollars.
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