DETROIT (WJBK) - After months of raising money, a historic Detroit church is ready to start a major renovation and it's going to rebuild its iconic steeple.
St. Joseph Oratory Catholic was founded more than 150 years ago in Detroit. As the city has bounced back in recent years, the church is seeing something similar: a boost in its congregation.
Last October, the church set a $2.5 million fundraising goal to repair and renovate the classic church near Eastern Market in Detroit.
The first item to fix is the church's 200-foot steeple which was damaged in a wind storm in 2016.
"Those wind storms blew off the majority of the slate, a large part of the copper. You imagine the safety hazard," Father Michael Stein said.
The damage forced the church to close until emergency repairs were made. Inside the ornate sanctuary are signs of lingering damage.
"Our vision is we received a 150-year-old inheritance and we're getting ready for the next 150 years," Fr. Stein said.
That vision for the future launched a fundraising campaign and on Monday church leaders announced the beginning of the complete restoration project of the church's steeple and bell tower. A construction company that also has historical Detroit roots like the church, is taking on this heavenly restoration assignment. Detroit Cornice and Slate is taking on the project with Kurt Hesse leading the plans.
"I am honored with the whole concept of coming on something that possibly that my great grandfather did originally and now we are handed the task of restoring these buildings now that they are 100 years old," Hesse said.
The new steeple won't be entirely new - original decorative copper that was part of the steeple from the 1800s will be part of the new steeple in 2018
The church will remain open during the project which is expected to be completed by late summer. Money has been raised to help fund the initiative but church leaders say much more is needed.
"After the steeple we still need to do the exact same repairs but on a larger scale for the entire roof," Stein said.
Bennadette Moore runs the church's food pantry and she says the restoration project is about more than restoring a look, it's also about making sure these church doors stay open for another one hundred -plus years to come.
"The beauty of the church all that's fine, but the community has to know we are here for them too," Moore said.