TAMPA — The Seminole Heights Baptist Church’s steeple has been saved. Well, a piece of it at least.
The crew demolishing the 72-year-old church structure at 801 E. Hillsborough Ave. removed the very top of the steeple — known as the spire — on Friday morning.
Then, via truck, they delivered it to a lot across the street from what will become its new home — Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe at 5119 N Nebraska Ave. in Seminole Heights.
Ella’s owner Melissa Deming said it will be months before she finalizes plans for the 43-foot, 55,000-pound structure. She would like to have a high enough base erected for the spire to be seen throughout the neighborhood from her restaurant.
The steeple — built in 1949 — was a commuting landmark above I-275 near E. Hillsborough Avenue.
Nashville-based HCA Healthcare purchased the Seminole Heights Baptist Church property in November. It will become home to a free-standing emergency room for Memorial Hospital of Tampa.
“Memorial Hospital of Tampa extends our appreciation to our contractor, DS Contracting, who safely relocated the steeple’s spire to its new owner’s property today, donating their services after costs exceeded the $50,000 that Memorial Hospital of Tampa contributed toward saving the spire,” HCA spokesperson Cindy Cucuz said.
In March, Deming began negotiating to have the steeple moved to her restaurant property.
Then, in July, HCA told the Tampa Bay Times that “it was determined that relocating the steeple is not practical and would actually be unsafe.”
Demming said about 10 days ago she was informed that perhaps the spire could be saved. Two days ago, HCA confirmed it would be delivered to her.
“We wish they could have saved the rest, but it was too difficult,” Deming said. “At least we have this.”