Action Report: Urgent campaign to save historic church bell tower


Posted on July 17, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 17 at 7:00 PM

Bill Capo / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @billcapo

NEW ORLEANS -- An Irish Channel landmark for 155 years, St. Mary's Assumption Church was the first German Catholic Church in Louisiana. Blessed Father Franxcis Xavier Seelos was buried here after he died from yellow fever.

When Father Richard Thibodeau walks through the church, he feels the history, the presence of the Holy Spirit and more.

"The spirits of so many men and women are continuing to be present in this building," Thibodeau said.

But the landmark, 190-foot tall bell tower is beginning to crumble. The gold leaf's long gone, the copper plating of the dome is green with age and the clock's broken.

"The bell tower is very fragile right now," said architect Robby Cangelosi, of Koch and Wilson Architects, who is spearheading the restoration. "We have water coming into the church through some of the louvers in it."

"It has suffered through a lot of weather related forces," Thibodeau said.

"The masonry needs addressing, the millwork needs addressing in it, the copper roof needs addressing," Cangelosi said.

There was a gold painted cross at the top of the tower.

"This was on top of the tower, part of the original cross that about 3 1/2 years ago was hit by lightning and destroyed," Thibodeau said while holding a piece of the cross.

"There will be some danger of it collapsing," said Cangelosi. "The higher up you go into the tower, the looser the bricks are, the more termite damage."

It will cost nearly $1 million to restore the tower and $150,000 just to put the scaffolding high enough for them to be able to do the work. But it is urgently needed, so they have the 'Don't Let The Tower Tumble' campaign.

"I'm truly amazed because we've already raised over a half million dollars, and we have about another $400,000 to $450,000 to go," Thibodeau said. "I have no doubt that we're going to make it, because I believe that people believe in this place, because it is more than just a building. It is an icon."

For more about the "Don't Let The Tower Tumble' Campaign, call the church at 522-6748, or visit their website at