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Here's the church, here's the steeple...

Historic Lake Orion church gets a fresh look

July 07, 2010 - High above Flint Street, under the scorching sun beating over downtown Lake Orion last week, the cracked and peeling shingles came off one by one.

The tall steeple at Lake Orion United Methodist Church was getting a facelift.

The project, part of an ongoing effort to maintain and improve the historic building, got started about three weeks ago, said Ralph Reseigh, trustee chairperson at the church.

"(The steeple) was looking pretty weathered," Reseigh said, noting the cedar shingles will be replaced with those of a weatherproof white vinyl variety, but the steeple's historic integrity will be maintained, otherwise. "We're basically redoing the whole thing from the roof up."

And up, and up.

Last week, a taller lift was delivered when it was discovered the first wouldn't allow workers to reach the structure's tip, some 80 feet up, Raseigh estimated.

According to historic records, the first meeting of area Methodists took place in 1833 at the home of Hiram Brown.

In 1853, the Union church was built jointly by Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists, and the Lake Orion United Methodist Church sanctuary, with basement, was constructed in 1873 on two lots near railroad tracks on Flint Street near M-24, where AutoZone sits today.

In 1902, the church was relocated.

"They moved it with horses and logs," said Reseigh, noting workers started the job by stripping the old cedar shingles, painted a number of times in the last 137 years. Valley Building of Oxford was contracted for the job.

Renovations throughout the church began in 2005, when church leaders formed a Building Study Committee to gather information and conduct focus groups.

In 2006, a vote approved by 92 percent majority to move forward with renovating and building on present church site and a building committee was formed, with congregation pledges of one million dollars.

In addition to the steeple's fresh face and other improvements, a dedication of the new education building was held in September 2009.

And while there's been plenty to celebrate, the church fell victim to some ill will recently, when thieves made off with a historic marker.

"It was stolen right off the building," Reseigh said. "We had a new one made - double sided, on a post - but the village won't let us put it up."

The two-sided marker, church members found out too late, violates the current sign ordinance in the village.

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