MILWAUKEE -- The last remaining charred beams inside Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church were taken down Thursday, Jan. 3. This, after a four-alarm fire gutted the historic church on May 15.
"You look at the beams, and it was a lot of work to build them," said Rich Longhenry, observing work.
Since the devastating May fire, it's been hard not to stop and look up, even for those not familiar with the church.
"When I looked up in there, I thought 'this thing must have caught on fire,'" Longhenry said. "It's gorgeous. Look at the windows and stuff like that. They don't do that anymore nowadays."
The beams began a final descent on Thursday.
"In a case like this, there's an awful lot of faith that's involved," said Hunter Hofmann, former pastor at Trinity Lutheran. "It feels a whole lot better than it did last May 15, when I was standing there watching it burn."
When flames took over the 140-year-old church, everyone watching was captivated.
"Nobody ever thought it was going to come down," said Hofmann.
"It goes back as long as the City of Milwaukee. The congregation was from 1847, this building 1878 . They kind of grew up together, Milwaukee and Trinity," said Christine Behnke, director of parish education at Trinity Lutheran.
Nearly eight months after the fire, the time on the tower clock still reads about half past 4 p.m. -- from that Tuesday in May.
"Everything is going to come to an end," said Hofmann. "The only thing that endures is the word of God and we focus on that and if the Lord wants this building rebuilt, we will get it done."
The next step is placing an anchoring system so the steel roof can go in. Church leaders said it could be three to five years before they offer services inside again.
The massive fire caused an estimated $17 million in damage — $13 million to the building itself and another $4 million to the contents within the building.
Officials have indicated the fire started on the roof — which was under construction at the time. There are reports heating tools caused the fire, but Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing indicated the cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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