July 31, 2014

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Weather complicates St. Anthony’s renovation plan

LORAIN — Changes at St. Anthony of Padua and St. Anthony School were planned and unplanned.

The church at 1305 E. Erie Ave. was having its bell tower removed when fierce winds from superstorm Sandy ripped the roof off the nearby school at 1339 E. Erie Ave. on Oct. 30.

The Rev. Richard Hudak, St. Anthony’s pastor, said a damage estimate hasn’t been completed, but the cost could be a few hundred thousand dollars. When the roof blew off, Hudak said the upper floors of the school suffered extensive damage, including drenched computers and SmartBoards.

The school, which serves 247 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, relocated to the St. Thomas the Apostle School at 715 Harris Road in Sheffield Lake, which closed a few years ago. Hudak said he hopes repairs will be completed in January. He thanked community members, parents and parishioners for helping with the relocation, donating school supplies and offering temporary housing.

“There’s been a real outpouring of community support,” he said. “The parents and the children appreciate that.”

The $300,000 removal of the bell tower, a decades-old landmark along Lake Erie, forever changes Lorain’s shoreline. The three-story bell tower and church opened in 1960.

The original St. Anthony of Padua is now the church’s social hall. Decades of severe lake winds made the tower structurally unsound. A 2008 engineering study was conducted to determine whether the tower could be repaired or replaced, or if it should be taken down to one story, Hudak said.

Repairs were considered, but the study said it would only be 10 years or so before the church would be in the same position again. Project fundraising began in 2009.

“Buildings on the lake don’t fare well because of the weather,” Hudak said. “The decision was made to take it down to one story.”

Although braces and cables have been in place for several years as a safety measure, demolition work didn’t begin until Oct. 25. Work should be completed in about a month.

Before the braces were installed, chunks of the tower had been falling off and hitting the pavement below.

“If we hadn’t put the supports in, we would be handing out hard hats to people coming and going,” Hudak joked.

The tower does not contain an actual bell, and never has. The bell that sounds throughout the day is electronic. The church will move the bell system once demolition is complete.

Bell or no bell, the loss of the tower will be significant for many.

“The bell tower at St. Anthony’s is a point of observation on the Lake,” Hudak said. “A lot of fishermen tell us they look for the bell tower and go out a mile or a mile and a half because there is good perch fishing out there.”

Linda Mathewson, church secretary and a parishioner since 1957, said she’ll miss the tower but knew it was dangerous to leave it up.

“It really is a landmark,” the Lorain resident said. “It is going to be strange not seeing it every day.”

Reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this story.

Contact Chrissy Jolliffe at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.