CHICAGO (CBS) — Crews manning three enormous cranes worked through the night to remove the storm-damaged 121-year-old steeple from a church in the Avondale neighborhood.

The 12-foot-tall stone cross at the steeple’s pinnacle was the first portion to come down, about two hours after work began in earnest to dismantle the steeple, atop Concordia Evangelical Lutheran Church, on the 2600 block of West Belmont Avenue.

The pastor of the church had held out hope that the steeple could be brought down without further damage, but Ald. Deborah Mell (33) said that would not be possible.

Mell said the steeple was being held in place by bolts on only two of eight steel beams, and much of the wood that framed the steeple was rotten even before Sunday’s storms damaged the structure further.

The city will store the cross for temporary safekeeping, Mell said.

One neighbor, Rich Zeis, said the steeple has rocked north-to-south for the past year. Others said they noticed the movement only after Sunday’s storm.

Mell said if Zeis had noticed the rocking earlier, he should have called 911 immediately.

The alderman indicated she would work with the church to schedule fundraisers, so the 30-family congregation would not be forced to bear the full six-figure cost of the dismantling and reconstruction.

An emergency court-appointed receiver has been overseeing the removal of the steeple, because the congregation is so small.

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