Ye distant spires, ye antique tow’rs

We found the perfect spire for our belfry today.

[Well, if that ain’t a sentence you don’t hear every day.]

We went junking at “Wisconsin’s Finest” antique flea market (leave it to a marketer to describe flea-anything as “fine”) in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. More than 500 dealers laid out their vintage Mason jars, wooden snow shoes, rusty farm implements and galvanized buckets at the county fairgrounds in an event that occurs only four times a summer. I’ve been waiting for this first showing of the season for seven months.

Tyler asked me what I was looking for, and I said I just wanted to look, which typifies the gender differences in shopping. A man hunts for something specific, a woman looks around until something catches her eye.

sire in situ
Quick! We need to buy it before that random stranger snaps it up!

As it turned out, a spire caught Tyler’s eye. This steel spire with Victorian era fleur-de-lis detailing had been salvaged from the turret of a decrepit late 1800s mansion in Vilas County, Wisconsin.

sire in history
This is our belfry in one of the earliest photos we’ve found of our church.

We’ve discussed over the past year how we wanted to finish the top of the belfry (it’s now just flat above the top shingles), and we’d sort of determined we wanted to replace the spire that was once on top of it. Tyler sourced a manufacturer of fiberglass spires for traditional churches, and we thought we might pursue that when the time came. Just the pointy top, no cross.

Here’s a close-up on the “lily petals” on the spire.

We liked the size of this beauty (about six feet) and the fleur-de-lis detailing. Fleur-de-lis is French for flower of the lily; it’s a stylized emblem of the French monarchy that appears in all sorts of modern design. Though it has no Victorian details, our building was built in the late Victorian era, about the same time as the mansion from which the spire was salvaged.

We’re guessing this damage occurred by lightning or during salvage.

Our junk spire needs a bit of straightening and a coat of rust-proof paint. We’re thinking we might paint the petals gray and the rest of the spire white.

Tyler is working on siding the garage right now, but after that, he’s focusing on siding the belfry, so for now our new-old spire awaits its new home in our great room.

spire in sanctuary

As we were leaving the fairgrounds with our booty, one woman remarked, “I hope you didn’t pay what it’s marked” (we didn’t, you flinty tightwad) and another woman said “how cool it that!” (thank you for noticing our good taste).

I didn’t know what we’d find today, but I’m so pleased, I’m marking my calendar for next month’s finest flea market!

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Today’s headline is the first line from a poem by Thomas Gray: Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.

Not every dream home features a belfry, but ours did

Our story so far: We found the home of our dreams, only it was a 126-year-old Methodist church that needed a lot of work, so much work, in fact, our friends thought we had bats in our belfry.

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Chapter 3

The belfry had the potential to be our first money pit.

A belfry is the part of a bell tower or steeple in which bells are housed.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Bells toll. Pay the toll. Bad things take a toll. Was there a message here?

Originally, the seller wanted the bell excluded from the sale of the church building. But with a little bit of research on eBay, my husband convinced the congregation that removing the bell would probably cost more than it was worth. So when they accepted our offer, which included the bell, we were thrilled to become its new owners. But it was going to exact a toll.

Our “rooted” belfry was in visibly poor condition, especially the roof just beneath the octagonal bell tower.

Without any inspection, we knew the belfry had problems. The seller had disclosed it was “rooted.” We hoped it was “rooted,” actually. My husband, ever the insurance agent, had visions the tower would fall down and we’d be liable for killing someone. Being solidly rooted is what we wanted in a good belfry.

But the roof of the belfry was indeed problematic, which was obvious even from 25 feet away on the ground. Shingles were curling all around the edges, and a piece of flashing was tearing away.

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Tomorrow: A closer inspection is in order. Click here to read.