Christ Church to undergo similar renovations to Notre Dame Cathedral

A landmark historic church in Old City is preparing for renovations similar to those taking place at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The French capital's iconic structure was engulfed in flames on Monday, with ash pouring onto tourists and flames shooting out of the world-famous 12th-century monument.

Chris Church, which was founded in 1695 and sits on the unit block of North American Street, was the birthplace of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

The church building dates from 1723, but the tower wasn't completed until 1754. The tower was the work of Robert Smith, one of America's earliest architects.

Now, the steeple at the landmark historic church is leaning and its supporting tower needs some serious structural stabilization.

Thanks to a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the church can shore up the tower and steeple that for 56 years made it the tallest structure in North America. In the last 50 years, engineers installed two steel structural supports inside Christ Church's tower. Now, there is a need for six more, said Barbara Hogue, executive director of the Christ Church preservation fund.

The steeple itself is tilted 22 inches off center, said the Rev. Timothy Stafford. The supports won't straighten it, but will stop the listing.

The whole project will take about $3 million, and the church has raised $2.5 million, including the new grant. The most expensive part of the project is the scaffolding itself, Hogue said, which will cost about $500,000.

The work could move quickly, and they hope to start in June and finish by December, Hogue said.

Church officials in Philadelphia emphasis the importance of preserving sites like Chris Church and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

"They are very much the soul of the country in many ways," said Stafford. "You have to preserve them because that is patronage of the very people of the nation. And they inspire, they give meaning, they give structure. Whatever it takes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.