NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary steeple is down, but only for a season. The aluminum-clad steel steeple, which stretched 170 feet above the seminary campus, remained in place during Hurricane Katrina and suffered only minor external damage. But …
NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary steeple is down, but only for a season.
The aluminum-clad steel steeple, which stretched 170 feet above the
seminary campus, remained in place during Hurricane Katrina and
suffered only minor external damage.
It became a beacon for hope in the devastated city, the only light at night more miles around.
During inspection this summer, though, the internal steel structure was
found to be damaged beyond repair; seminary officials opted to remove
the steeple so it can be replaced. For the next four to six months
Leavell Chapel will be without its steeple.
Patterned after the steeple of the first Baptist church in America,
First Baptist Church of Providence, R.I., the NOBTS steeple was
installed atop Leavell Chapel in 1975. Over the years the steeple
became a symbol of the seminary’s mission to be a “lighthouse” for the
Gospel in the city of New Orleans.
“The chapel was without a steeple from its construction in the 1950s
until 1975,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. “We hope this will be
the last time the steeple is absent.”
In 2002, when NOBTS administrators chose a new logo for the school, they chose a design that featuring the steeple.
The replacement steeple, which could be installed as early as November,
will be an exact visual replica of the original steeple.
The internal design, however, will be much stronger than the original.
The new steeple will feature an improved structure which meets the
latest Louisiana wind load standards.
On July 19, contractors working with the seminary’s reconstruction
contractor, Mike Moskaw, began removing the storm-damaged steeple with
a massive crane. Removing the four large external pieces which form the
steeple along with most of the internal structure was a complicated
On day one, workers removed the 46-foot spire at the top of the steeple
and a smaller section just below the spire over a six-hour period.
During the next two days, workers removed two large external sections
as well as an 8,000 pound section of the internal steel structure. As
the crane operator skillfully removed the pieces, cameras for The
Times-Picayune newspaper and WWL-TV, the local CBS affiliate, recorded
the event. A photo collage of the steeple removal is available online
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, seminary officials worked
diligently to restore power and illuminate the steeple. By last
October, the illuminated steeple provided a lone point of light in a
sea of darkness -– the only light for miles and miles.
Not only was the steeple an important symbol for members of the
seminary family who returned to reclaim their belongings from the
damaged campus, it offered hope throughout the city of New Orleans in
the early days of the post-Katrina cleanup — a hope that Kelley said
is rooted firmly in Jesus Christ.
WWL-TV reporter Sally-Ann Roberts also highlighted the lighted steeple
in a news segment last fall about the seminary’s decision to remain in
“The steeple was the first thing we lit when power was restored,”
Kelley said at the time. “It really is a light in the midst of darkness.
“We learned there is a reason why so many churches have steeples,” he
said. “Whether we realize it or not, they really are beacons of hope
for people in the community facing trying times.”