Historic steeple demolished at Portland’s First Baptist Church

Posted at 8:15 PM, Jun 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-25 20:15:34-04

PORTLAND, Mich. -- The Portland community came together to say goodbye to a piece of their history. The steeple atop First Baptist Church was demolished today. Monday's tornado caused heavy damaged to it. Pastor Gary Coleman watched alongside dozens of other people at Bridge and Smith Street.

"It's hard to see it go," Coleman said.

The pastor said the church was established in 1840. The iconic steeple was built in the 1870s. People took pictures and video to capture it in its final moments.

"Many of them are our church members. For many of them it's a traumatic event," the pastor said.

Coleman added, "It's a part of them that's going down, not just the building."

An EF-1 tornado ripped through the town Monday afternoon. The winds topped one hundred miles an hour, knocked over trees, damaged homes and four churches. Coleman said the steeple was so badly damaged, it was determined to be unsafe. There was no other choice but to tear it down. Coleman said a structural engineer will go in and determine if the rest of the building can be saved.

The church's historic bell was recovered after the steeple was knocked down.

Officials said four churches in Portland were damaged by the tornado. The congregations will worship together at the high school auditorium this Sunday.