CHARLESTON—When Hurricane Hugo raked a path of destruction through Charleston on Sept. 22, 1989, among the storm’s most visible casualties were the twin steeples of Blessed Sacrament Church.
The wind toppled the spires into the middle of Savannah Highway in front of the church, an image still visible in photographs from the aftermath.
The flat towers that held the spires have sat empty since that day, but soon that will change.
An anonymous gift from founding members of Blessed Sacrament is funding the construction of two new steeples. Work is set to begin in the next few weeks.
Father Joseph Romanoski, pastor, said members of the church were devastated by the damage that Hugo caused, especially because the steeples were a notable landmark and symbol of the faith that could be seen by passersby on S.C. Highway 17.
“There was a lot of damage done to the entire parish campus by Hugo, and by the time insurance money came in, they were able to take care of a lot of issues but not the replacement of the steeples,” Father Romanoski said. “Many of the founding and longtime members have dreamed of replacing them, and this one family took it upon themselves to save for that occasion.”
In 2017, family members told him they had more than $160,000 to donate to the parish, with the stipulation that it be used only for new steeples.
Father Romanoski worked with Jack McGovern, director of stewardship at Blessed Sacrament, and others to put the project in motion. The parish received permission from the diocese and obtained necessary permits from the city of Charleston.
The structures will be built from fiberglass instead of metal and steel, and will closely resemble the originals. One difference will be at the very top: The original spires featured a crown topped by a cross, while the new ones will have only a cross. The structures will be created in a bronze color to match the church building.
Once they are completed, the steeples will once again be one of the most visible landmarks in the neighborhood, with a combined height of the existing towers, steeples and crosses coming in at more than 128 feet.
In late July, lifts were in place in front of the church to enable workers to inspect the towers and make sure they are secure enough to hold the new structures.
“If there is ever another hurricane, these are going to be built not to come down,” Father Romanoski said.
The new steeples were designed by Gary Boehm of Glick Boehm Architecture of Charleston, which has done several projects around the diocese, including the Beach House building at Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant, St. Ann Church in Santee, and Sts. Frederick & Stephen Mission on Edisto Island.
Fiberglass Specialties Inc. in Henderson, Texas, is handling the construction, with installation by Sutton Christian Supply Inc. of Warner Robbins, Ga.
The entire project will require about $20,000 in additional funds, which will come from parish savings.
McGovern said the goal is to have the steeples in place by February 2019, in time to coincide with celebrations of the parish’s 75th anniversary.
“This is a major thing for a lot of people here at Blessed Sacrament, especially those who remember the way the church looked when it was originally built in 1962,” McGovern said.
“It is going to be very uplifting to see the new steeples when they are completed, and it is special that the funding came from a legacy gift from parishioners. It shows how one family can make a big difference,” he added.
Top photo, provided: A composite shows Blessed Sacrament as it is today beside an artist’s rendering of how it will look with new spires.