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Cross removed from damaged steeple

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Updated: December 21, 2013 6:24AM

Donna Berry shed a tear Tuesday evening as crews carefully removed the cross atop a historic Avondale neighborhood church steeple likely damaged by wind in Sunday’s dangerous storms.

A construction worker spent nearly an hour securing the cross — made of wood and covered in copper — with yellow rope. Then he sawed it off from the wind-damaged steeple at Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2645 W. Belmont Ave.

By 6 p.m., the cross was dangling from the rope, high above the neighborhood, before being carefully placed in a construction vehicle. Parishioners said the cross will be stored in a ward yard, then placed back in the church.

Berry said the cross has been in full view of her condominium since she moved to the neighborhood 13 years ago:.

“It made me very sad because this cross is a very important part of our lives. I have two kids here and we see that cross every day, and now it won’t be there tomorrow morning when we wake up,” said Berry, 46. “I’m happy they saved it and can’t wait to see where they’re actually placing it, but again, something that you have for so long is gone and you can’t help but feel a little bit sad.”

The Rev. Martin Doering, pastor of the church, watched from across the street, in an alley with other parishioners and neighborhood residents.

“That cross is very important,” Doering said. “But we’re trying to keep as much intact as possible.”

The removal of the damaged steeple was delayed in the afternoon while officials brought in a crane to take down the steeple without destroying it.

By about 4 p.m., a construction worker in a crane hammered at the steeple horizontally, poking holes in sections of it. Crews on scene said the plan is to remove the steeple in sections, but by 10 p.m., the steeple was still standing.

West Belmont Avenue was closed between California and Rockwell avenues, creating traffic jams and rerouting CTA buses. Police said Belmont will stay closed until the steeple is removed.

The plan, initially, was to remove the steeple Tuesday morning. But that changed after a crane operator said he couldn’t be sure the steeple could be taken down without damaging it, Doering said.

There were no indications of trouble Sunday, when church services went on as normal. But on Monday, city staff found significant damage to the supports holding up the steeple and deemed it to be a hazard to the public.

Dan Pogorzelski, of the Northwest Chicago Historical Society huddled up with other parishioners to watch the removal. He said a great part of city history is going away along with the steeple.

“The city of immigrants wanted to bring a little bit of home back with them. And if you look at that tower, it’s literally as if was transported from the south of Germany,” Pogorzelski said. It was a welcome to the neighborhood and so it’s very sad that one of those hallmarks, something that was built for the ages is now being removed.”

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