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Archive for Monday, March 13, 2006

Storm topples 135-year-old church spires

March 13, 2006

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Two of the four spire-topped brick towers on the east side of historic Plymouth Congregational Church downtown were toppled by high winds Sunday.

"They've been there for 135 years, and today, two of them are gone," said the Rev. Peter Luckey, church pastor.

Founded in 1854, Plymouth Congregational was the first church established in the Kansas Territory. Several of its members were killed during William Quantrill's murderous raid in August 1863.

The three-story, red-brick church at 925 Vt., was built in 1870.

Luckey said he was in his church office at 8:15 a.m., putting the final touches on his sermon, when he heard a loud noise.

"At the same time, there was a very precipitous drop in the air pressure. It made my ears pop like they do when you're in an airplane," he said. "It was a very surreal feeling - to have that happen while you're on the ground."

Moments later, he realized the two towers were on the ground. Both had been clipped off at the roofline.

"We were very fortunate," Luckey said. "Our first service is at 9:30 a.m., so if it had happened an hour later, it's likely someone could have been hurt."

City workers, he said, used a front-end loader to scoop the bricks out of the street and onto the sidewalk.

The sidewalk in front of the church was quickly cordoned off with yellow "caution" tape.

Plans call for rebuilding the towers.

"Absolutely," Luckey said.

The towers appear to be about 10 feet tall.

For several months, Plymouth Congregational has been raising money for several repairs and improvements.

"There's work that needs to be done on the bricks, the stained glass windows, the eaves and the roof," Luckey said. The repairs are expected to cost $2 million.

The list of repairs included reinforcing all four towers, Luckey said.

Whether the remaining towers are "structurally viable," he said, will be assessed this week.

"We've contacted our engineers," Luckey said.

The church, he added, is insured for the damages.

March 12, 2006, Storm

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