First Unitarian to remove steeple; congregation to examine options

Rodef Sholom and First Unitarian Church on Wick Park

Rodef Sholom (left) and First Unitarian Church on Wick Park in an undated photo. Electronic image by Mark C. Peyko for Metro Monthly.

• UPDATE: First Unitarian Universalist Church removed the steeple the morning of Jan. 15, 2013. See the photo album and slide show below. For video of the steeple being removed, visit the Metro Monthly Facebook page:  Watch the steeple come down.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown is announcing that it has decided to remove its steeple, which has fallen into disrepair, and store it at CASTLO Industrial Park pending possible restoration or replacement.

The congregation voted to proceed with this project at its annual meeting on Sunday, Jan 6, and the project begins on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The steeple may be removed by crane as soon as Jan 14.

“The church’s steeple had fallen into disrepair over several decades and had become hazardous, with pieces blowing off in windstorms last year,” said Karen O’Malia, board president. “We took immediate action on that, removing loose pieces, but we knew that we had to act soon to address other weaknesses in the structure of the steeple.”

“We had had several steeplejacks examine the steeple in the past, but were getting wildly differing recommendations and costs. We felt that getting it on the ground, where we could evaluate it more closely, would be the right move,” said Sarah Lown, board member.

Brock Builders Inc. will do the removal and cap work and Ron Faniro Architects has provided design assistance for the project. CASTLO Industrial Park has offered temporary storage for free.

After the removal project is complete, the congregation will consider next steps, exploring costs and options. Some members would like the steeple restored because the church is located within the Wick Park Historic District. Others are concerned about the cost of restoration. Some have even suggested alternatives like a solar panel or a wind turbine.

“We hope to invite all our stakeholders, our members, but also our neighbors and mission partners, the community at large, in on the discussion. Decisions about church buildings can sometimes become divisive, so  we really want to explore all the options thoroughly. The storage option buys us time to do make a thoughtful decision,” said Rev. Matt Alspaugh, minister.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown, founded in 1892, and located on Youngstown’s North Side, is part of the Unitarian Universalist Association, a liberal religious movement that draws inspiration from many different religious and philosophical traditions. For more information, see uuyo.org <http://uuyo.org/> , or uu.youngstown on Facebook.

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UPDATE: First Unitarian Universalist Church removed the steeple the morning of Jan. 15, 2013. See the photo album and slide show on this page. For video of the steeple being removed, visit the Metro Monthly Facebook page:  Watch the steeple come down.

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