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Landmark church decapitated on Main St.

Landmark church decapitated on Main St.
Senior Warden Lida Watson (l. to r.), Interim Pastor Shawn Duncan and Sexton Blaise Scelsi stand in front of their St. George’s Church in Flushing among the rubble of its steeple, which fell during last week’s storm. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

Pastors and parishioners are optimistically planning a long-term recovery after last week’s storm blew the lid off the landmark home of a 308-year-old congregation in the heart of downtown Flushing.

The towering wooden spire of the iconic St. George’s Church signaled the parish’s importance to the local community through its prominent slot in the neighborhood’s burgeoning skyline.

But the freak Sept. 16 storm left the 156-year-old building — the third church to hold the congregation — and its congregants literally steeplechasing after the towering construction was knocked down either by lightning, wind or, as some say, an act of God.

The metal cross that once topped the spire was found broken in two among the splintered timber, old-fashioned nails and other rubble the destruction left strewn from the church’s grounds, across the street and on the opposite sidewalk.

“It was just a street full of debris when I got here [shortly after it was destroyed],” Senior Warden Lida Watson said. “And you look up and it’s just a vacant spot with maybe a couple of filials left. You used to be able to identify it from way up Main Street.”

The debris damaged a bus and snarled traffic for hours as it was cleared from in front of the church, which stretches from 38th to 39th avenues on Main Street.

Now the rebuilding process begins, to the tune of $200,000 to $300,000.

“Because St. George’s is a landmark, there will be a process to rebuild it with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission,” interim Pastor Shawn Duncan said Friday. “There’s an architect from the Landmarks Preservation Commission coming this afternoon. We’re putting plans together immediately.”

The church has building insurance, Duncan said, but under its policy the first $75,000 must be paid by the parish as a deductible.

Duncan also said the church was lucky there was little water damage because of the design of the structure, but that repair work may be slow going.

“The bell chamber has louvres to keep water out, so some water went into the bell chamber but didn’t go beyond that,” he said. “It’s not going to be a short process. The initial work is to seal the bell chamber so it’s weather-tight on top.”

But services continue at the injured sanctuary, and worshippers and neighbors say they are optimistic about its future.

“We’re not going to have that same feeling for a while where we look up and that’s us from blocks away,” Watson said. “But we can still come to worship and for fellowship and it’ll have the same feeling because it’s about the people more than the building — spire or not.”

Duncan said the church is accepting donations to help fund the insurance deductible. Checks should be made out to St. George’s Church with “spire construction” written on the memo line and should be sent to the church at 135-32 38th Ave., Flushing, NY 11354.

For more information, contact the church at [email protected] or 718-359-1171.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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