St. George’s Episcopal Church now estimates the construction of a new steeple will cost one million dollars.
The original steeple of the landmark church located in Downtown Flushing was 157 years old when it was blown off on Sept. 16, 2010 during a freak tornado.
In June of 2011, the Queens Chronicle reported that the new steeple was projected to cost $400,000 and construction would be completed that summer.
That estimation has since escalated and the church is continuing to ask for donations.
“There were lots of new discoveries made in the tower, repairs that needed to be made and adjustments to the original design that weren’t anticipated when the first architect came and drew up the plans for the reconstruction,” the Rev. Wilfredo Benitez explained.
Although most funds will be covered by insurance and The New York Landmarks Conservancy has given the parish a $25,000 matching grant, the church does not have the necessary funds needed to complete the construction. Benitez said the church may hold a fundraiser at the end of the summer or fall.
Founded in 1702, St. George’s is one of the oldest churches in the area. Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a warden of the church between 1765 and 1790. In 2000, The New York Landmarks Conservancy designated the church a landmark.
Because St. George’s is a landmark, the new steeple will look the same as the old one while meeting current building codes to ensure that the steeple can withstand harsh weather.
“It’s going to look the way it looked in 1854 when the church was built, except for the four finials that we can’t afford to reconstruct,” Benitez said.
A letter from Benitez and churchwardens Kaity Chang and Lida Watson explained the progress of the steeple, and noted the uncertainty of when it will be finished.
“We have about 50 more feet to go to replace the historic structure,” the letter stated. “Sadly, we are unsure about the completion of this project.”
The letter continued, “Due to the need for necessary but unanticipated work and materials, we have incurred an additional expense of $130,000 to pay for our new spire. Our insurance will not cover the additional expense incurred.”
However, the letter assures congregants that “In the midst of overdevelopment, St. George’s will remain a prominent, strong, tranquil monument to the past and present.”
Benitez said he hopes the construction will be completed by Thanksgiving.
To donate to the rebuilding, send a check payable to the order of St. George’s Church with “Spire Restoration Fund” on the memo line of the check. Mail to 135-32 38th Ave., Flushing, NY 11354.