Heavenly view

St. Eustace steeple undergoes repairs

Michael Jenkins, of A to Z Steeples, waves from the spire of St. Eustace Episcopal Church in Lake Placid on Wednesday. Jenkins is installing new shingles on the spire. (Enterprise photo — Lauren Yates)

LAKE PLACID — Michael Jenkins has seen hundreds of great views in his lifetime. It’s a perk of the church steeple repair trade.

Jenkins, of A to Z Steeples, was perched atop the St. Eustace Episcopal Church spire in Lake Placid on Wednesday morning with a view of the village at his feet. The spire’s wooden bones were laid bare as Jenkins prepared to install a new set of lifetime-quality shingles.

Jenkins, originally from Rockville, Illinois, has repaired hundreds of steeples in his 22-year career, from the east coast to the heart of Chicago, Illinois. But on Wednesday, Jenkins was in awe of St. Eustace’s steeple and the church’s history. The church’s structure, once located on Victor Herbert Road, was dismantled and moved in its entirety to its current location on Main Street, where it reopened in 1927. Jenkins said that the church’s carpentry, mortar and stonework are proof of “quality workmanship” done in the past.

“They get ‘Atta boys’ from me all the time,” he said of the church’s original constructors.

Jenkins said that St. Eustace’s spire was already in great shape when he started dismantling its shingles. They were last replaced in 2004, according to St. Eustace Reverend Kenneth Hitch, but Jenkins said they could have lasted another 30 to 40 years. But he said the church had just paid for the replacement of the church’s shingles and decided to replace the ones on the spire, too.

Steeple repair is a pretty rare trade, Jenkins said. For him, it’s personal work. He’s a Christian himself, and repairing steeples catapulted him from a period of drug addiction and several months of jail time into a healthier lifestyle.

The day after Jenkins walked out of prison in 2001, he sat in a church listening to a motivational speaker. Still wearing his clothes from jail, Jenkins listened to the speaker talk about how to have a profitable career while maintaining a Christian lifestyle. At the time, Jenkins didn’t know that the stranger sitting next to him would introduce him to steeple repairman Tony Stratton, the man who would alter the course of his life. At 7 a.m. the next day, Jenkins — still wearing prison clothes — began his apprenticeship as a steeple repairman at a Rockville church under the leadership of Stratton. It was the same church Jenkins had been staring at from inside a jail window for the previous six months.

Now, Jenkins is a subcontractor under Stratton and hires his own employees. He said he tries to hire people who are struggling with addiction like he once did. He knows how much it means to be given another chance — the job helped to lift Jenkins out of a life of addiction and brought him closer to God. He hopes to help others find the same joy from steeple work.

“What better way to glorify God than repairing his house?” Jenkins said.

Hitch said that the spire work should be finished within a couple of weeks, weather permitting.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today