Prep work for First Christian Church tower restoration begins

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Scaffolding is being erected so that $3.2 million worth of repair work officially can begin on the iconic, 165-foot First Christian Church tower, long a landmark of Columbus’ small-town structural silhouette.

The church and the tower were the first Modernist buildings in a city that has earned global acclaim for its tall, architectural legacy.

The project, being handled by F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. of Indianapolis, is designed to be a decades-long solution to the natural weathering and cracking of masonry and partial instability of the Eliel Saarinen creation built in 1942. That’s according to local architect Louis Joyner, who is overseeing the work.

Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of November, with that time frame allowing for weather delays, Joyner said. The scaffolding includes four separate platforms that can move up and down independently on a track on each side of the tower.

Workers also just erected a steel frame inside the building’s top portion known as the clock tower. That frame will keep the top section stable during segments of selective dismantling and restoration at the top.

The scaffolding on the interior and exterior will be complete by the end of the month, Joyner said. He added that the church itself next to the tower is scheduled to remain open during all of the work.

Wilhelm was chosen partly because of its seasoned background and experience, according to project organizers.

“This firm has some of the most experience for this kind of work than anyone else in this area,” Joyner said.

For more on this story, see Tuesday’s Republic.