Mother Nature Topples This Tulsa Church Steeple, But Not For Long

The tornado whirling through Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the night of May 26 did more than down trees and lift shingles. Its vicious winds toppled the Central Church of the Nazarene’s dilapidated 40-year-old steeple. Called in hours after the storm, Paul Davis rigged tarps to cover the exposed roof area and began planning a complicated and challenging but very rewarding and successful steeple replacement project.

Working closely with the church’s insurance carrier and church staff, Paul Davis placed an order for the new model with a company that builds steeples for many churches in North America. Nazarene’s initial steeple had been gently lowered into place by helicopter in 1981 – in fact, the current facilities manager had worked with the church for many years and remembered the dramatic moment. Its soaring white 225-kilogram replacement would be lifted atop the building the same way. 

Paul Davis Project Manager Michael Sullivan and his crew got to work during a six-week planning and construction phase ahead of steeple delivery and helicopter arrival. Sullivan, who has a background in architecture, retained an engineer to plan the process for bolting the steeple securely atop the church with four threaded rods. A roofing company and flashing manufacturer prepared the surrounding roof to hold the steeple securely and ensure it remained watertight to protect the auditorium directly underneath. 

When the gleaming steeple arrived on a flatbed truck, Paul Davis construction specialists pre-drilled the base to accept the bolts and made final preparations. On installation day, the helicopter arrived in tandem with a large audience and members of the press bearing cameras and notebooks, ready to view the exciting operation. “The helicopter pilot handled the trickiest part: situating the steeple gently and exactly on top of the bolts, then hovering as we secured each one,” explains Sullivan, who added that the pilot had logged 1000 hours of precision flying. “And it turned out to be a gusty day, which meant lots of raising and lowering.” 

Within a few hours, the church regained its majestic landmark, once again visible from a long distance and stable against the future storms that are inevitable in Tulsa. Church staff praised the healing and growth the restoration created for the congregation, which would be welcoming a new pastor in October. Paul Davis employees, who also completed restoration inside the structure, were pleased and proud to handle an unusual project efficiently, safely, on schedule and within budget.

“This project required a wide array of specialty skill sets – engineering, architecture, construction – and Paul Davis came through for this congregation without a hitch,” concludes Tom Culver, President of Paul Davis Restoration of Tulsa. “We were very pleased to bring all of our capabilities together for such a worthy and satisfying project.”