CALEDONIA — After a severe windstorm damaged the cross and copper base atop their steeple, St. Louis parishioners rang in a hearty welcome to their new copper shingled steeple, finished in time to celebrate the parish’s 110th anniversary after all Masses on Aug. 27 and 28.p.8PICT0684ABOVE: The old steeple is removed after an Oct. 25, 2010, storm cracked the support beam of the cross, loosened the cross and caused it to sway in the wind.

: A new steeple is placed atop St. Louis Church, Caledonia, in late July. Parishioners celebrated the new steeple, along with the parish’s 110th anniversary, Aug. 27-28. (Submitted photos courtesy St. Louis Church, Caledonia)

Parishioners brought bells from home, and rang them during a dedication ceremony outside the church while the bells in the tower rang to mark the celebration.

According to business administrator Mary Ann Schroeder, the Oct. 25, 2010, storm cracked the support beam of the cross, loosening the cross and causing it to sway dangerously in the wind.

“There were some concerns that it would topple over and hurt someone,” she explained. “In the process of investigating this event, we had to crawl through the steeple and it was at this point, we discovered how decrepit it was.”

After members of the Milwaukee-based KOMP Engineering Firm assessed the safety and structural soundness of the steeple, they described the spire in their report as “a rather rickety collection of loose boards.” The insurance company recommended replacement of the steeple as the extent of damage to the structure posed a significant liability.

Overall damage to the cross and cupola was $12,245 and determined by the insurance company as related to the building’s 110 years, rather than from the storm.

Fundraising efforts began to build a new steeple for the 1901 Cream City brick church. While the current building reached its 110-year milestone, the parish dates to 1843 when Fr. Martin Kundig, a German priest, reached out to area Catholics to build a log church in 1844-45. p.9PICT1060The parish was formally organized in 1857 and in a newly built frame church, but it was destroyed in a fire in 1930.

“The excavation and foundation of our current church was done entirely by volunteer parishioners,” said Schroeder.

The second frame building was used as the parish hall until it was razed in 1954 to build the parish school. The school closed in 2005 due to low enrollment.

With hopes for another 100 years to add to its history, members of St. Louis Parish chose building materials for the new steeple. Under the advice of church restoration and construction experts, Krause Konstruction Inc. of Coon Valley, the parish chose copper shingles for their longevity and ability to withstand high winds over traditional asphalt roofing shingles expected to last just 50 years.

As a unique means to preserve the names of those who participated in raising funds for the new steeple, parishioners signed their names on the backside of the shingles. Signing on the reverse side ensured that the names would be safe from the elements.

“It was the contractor’s idea to have the parishioners sign the shingles as a fundraising event,” said Schroeder. “We had done some fundraising already, so we didn’t want to require our people to give yet again for the right to sign a shingle. We just invited all parishioners to join us for hospitality, refreshments and a shingle. We had a wonderful response, although I am not sure the exact number of people who signed the them.”

01-0410-Church-PicSt. Louis Church, Caledonia, after the new steeple replaces the old one in late July. (Submitted photo courtesy St. Louis Church, Caledonia)While planning and fundraising for the steeple took 10 months, the structural work began July 25 and attracted the interest of parishioners eager to see the demolition of the old steeple and rebuilding of the new.

“The old steeple was so decrepit, there was nothing to salvage,” said Schroeder. “However, we still have the original cross and are discussing possible uses or ways to display it.”

After a large crane removed the remainder of the damaged steeple, construction began to erect the 25-foot high steeple mounted with a six foot cross.

While there were no construction surprises along the way, three funerals during the month of construction brought work to a halt until the mourners vacated the church.

“The crew was extremely diligent and they quickly got back to work after the funerals,” explained Schroeder. “As an aside, Fr. Mark (Danczyk), our pastor, treated the workers to ice cream in honor of the St. Louis feast day, (Aug. 25). But, the guys would not even eat their treat on the ground. So there were four men hanging from the top of the steeple in harnesses eating their Reese’s Peanut Butter Blizzards.”