Hillhouse to reopen after steeple repair

After strong winds delayed repairs to the steeple of St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse Avenue, the corner that was blocked off to pedestrians is expected to reopen today, New Haven fire officials said.

Firefighters and police closed off most of Hillhouse Avenue to allow construction workers to patch a hole in the steeple of the church, which is located near the corner of Hillhouse Avenue and Grove Street. Fire officials said winds tore off a 40 square-foot piece of roof around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, with pieces falling to the streets on both sides and hitting an unoccupied parked car on Temple Street. New Haven fire officials said they hoped the damage would be repaired and the street reopened by Friday, but the same winds that caused the damage delayed those plans by three days.

A crane was on Hillhouse Avenue on Friday to fix damage to the steeple of St. Mary's Church. The street was also closed to pedestrian traffic.
Charlie Croom
A crane was on Hillhouse Avenue on Friday to fix damage to the steeple of St. Mary's Church. The street was also closed to pedestrian traffic.

The block where St. Mary’s is located remained closed to pedestrian and motor traffic during the weekend as a construction crew in a crane moved in to restore the steeple. Assistant Fire Chief Ralph Black said Thursday that firefighters climbed up into the steeple and used clamps to temporarily prevent more debris from falling. New Haven firemen and police officers initially let no one onto Hillhouse Avenue, even owners of cars parked near the church.

“We’re just trying to secure the area,” Black said. “It’s probably safe, but there could always be additional debris.”

In an e-mail sent to the Yale community Friday morning, Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said the street will remain closed until repairs to the steeple are completed.

“There will be no pedestrian traffic allowed in the area of the church on both sides of the road,” Perrotti said in the e-mail. “Please find an alternate route.”

Police remained on the scene and are strictly enforcing the no-pedestrian rule, despite students’ repeated attempts to walk through the area.

A fuller renovation project for St. Mary’s is planned for spring break.

St. Mary’s Church, built in 1834, houses the oldest parish in New Haven.

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