Time capsule found inside the old spire of the Old Steeple Community Church

The steeple of the Old Steeple community church in Aquebogue was replaced for the first time since 1939. Work began last Tuesday with the removal of the old steeple. The lower half of the steeple was placed two days later. The upper part of the bell tower has not yet been placed because a new silver coating had to be done for it. The old siding was not transferred smoothly to the new roof and church officials say it could be weeks before the roof is installed.

The change was not made for purely cosmetic reasons, said church office administrator Gail Evans.

The old steeple had asbestos under the shingles, she said, and the church also needed to renovate the cell antennas kept there. Holes in the steeple also allowed animals to climb inside.

Old Steeple Community Church with its original steeple in 1898 (Courtesy Gail Evans)

“There were birds that made houses around the steeple,” Ms. Evans said.

In the church’s newsletter The Steeple View, the church’s pastor, Reverend Anton DeWet, wrote that upon dismantling the old steeple, a time capsule was discovered. Its content is still unknown.

“What an adventure for the whole church,” he wrote. “What do those who put it there want us to know?” We will keep you posted.”

The bell tower had a long history and had various uses. Richard Wines, chairman of the Riverhead Landmarks Preservation Commission, said in the past people could come by boat to the church and use the steeple to locate it.

“Before the railroad got there you could row almost to the church,” he said. “If you go out onto the bay when you are in Flanders, on that side you can still see the steeple.

The current building was constructed in 1862 and since then the bell tower has only been replaced once, in July 1939, after its loss in the great hurricane of 1938. The bell tower was renovated in 1978 to place it on a cement base.

The Old Steeple Community Church is part of the National United Church of Christ. It has many ministries through which members of the congregation can come together and serve the community, such as Maureen’s Haven, Prayer Shawl Ministry, and Support for Veterans of the Cross, among others.

“Our church is part of the history of this community,” said Rev. DeWet. “It represented the light of Christ through its beautiful buildings and its steeple, pointing to the heavens, inviting, calling and welcoming everyone.”

The bell tower had been in place since 1939. (Melissa Azofeifa)

Norma P. Rex