Steeple once again tops Cornell Theater

New steeple is metal; its bell will ring electronically.


A replacement steeple was erected atop the Katharine Cornell Theater and Tisbury Town Hall over the weekend, about four years after the original wooden steeple was removed due to weight concerns.

The replacement steeple is made from aluminum, according to DPW director Kirk Metell, and weighs 3,500 pounds, as opposed to more than 10,000 pounds, which is what the original steeple was estimated to weigh. Slated to be finished Saturday, the job lasted well into Sunday.

Metell chalked this up in part due to the complexity of the work. He said accommodations were made to make sure the adjacent Baptist Church could hold its Sunday services. A huge crane was used to mount the steeple. First a bell made in 1844, the same year as the building was built, was hoisted onto the roof in a cradle. Then the base of the steeple was craned to the roof. Next, the spire was hoisted and affixed to the base. Last, the weathervane was set atop the spire. The process ended at 5:30 pm Sunday, Metell said. “It actually came out really nice,” he said. “They did a very good job replacing it.”

Metell expected the overall cost to be approximately $350,000, some of which is covered by Community Preservation funds. 

The bell will no longer be run manually, Metell said. In fact, there will no longer be any access to the interior of the steeple from the interior of the Katharine Cornell Theater. The hatch that had provided access has been sealed, he said, and now the only way to get into the steeple is from on top of the roof. The bell will ring from a switch somewhere downstairs in the building. 

Prior to the steeple erection, the roof plywood needed to be beefed up, and a rubber membrane was added, Metell said. 

The fate of the old steeple is up in the air, Metell said. Originally it was slated to be declared surplus, Metell said. However, the West William Street Historic District Commission has suggested the steeple could be repurposed, he said, perhaps as an information kiosk. 

When the weathervane was mounted Sunday night, Metell said, neighbors to the theater applauded.


  1. It’s nice to have it back. Looks great !
    Thanks to the crew who pulled off this complex erection.
    It must have been hard.

    Also nice to know the original steeple wasn’t just trashed.
    I just hope it’s properly grounded.

  2. In Falmouth, the wooden cupola from the old Mullen-Hall School was preserved for public enjoyment (the public does own these objects) by being made the centerpiece of a small garden near the school, where a walkway has replaced the old Hamlin Avenue.

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