The steeple at Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue has been replaced for the first time since 1939. The work began last Tuesday with the removal of the old steeple. The bottom half of the steeple was placed two days later. The top part of the steeple has yet to be placed because a new silver cladding needed to be made for it. The old cladding didn’t transfer smoothly to the new top and church officials say it could be weeks before the top gets installed.
This change wasn’t done for purely cosmetic reasons, said church office administrator Gail Evans.
The old steeple had asbestos underneath the shingles, she said, and the church also needed to refurbish cell antennas that were kept there. Holes in the steeple also created an avenue for animals to climb inside.
“There were birds that made homes around the bell tower,” Ms. Evans said.
In the church newsletter, The Steeple View, the church’s minister, the Rev. Dr. Anton DeWet, wrote that while taking down the old steeple, a time capsule had been discovered. Its contents are still unknown.
“What an adventure for the entire church,” he wrote. “What will those who put it there want us to know? We will keep you posted.”
The steeple had a long history and had various uses. Richard Wines, chair of the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission, said that in the past people used to be able to come by boat to the church and used the steeple to locate it.
“Before the railroad was there you could row almost up to the church,” he said. “If you go out on to the bay when you’re over in Flanders, on that side you could still see the steeple.”
The present building was built in 1862 and, since then, the steeple was only replaced once, in July 1939, after it was lost in the Great Hurricane of 1938. The steeple was renovated in 1978 to place it on a cement base.
Old Steeple Community Church is part of the national United Church of Christ. It has numerous ministries through which congregation members can gather and serve the community, such as Maureen’s Haven, Prayer Shawl Ministry and Support for Veterans of the Cross, among others.
“Our church is part of the history of this community,” the Rev. DeWet said. “It has been representing the light of Christ through its beautiful buildings and the steeple, pointing toward the heavens, inviting, reminding and welcoming all.”