By Duke Behnke
APPLETON – As Trinity Lutheran Church is removed from the downtown Appleton skyline, Peggy Hoppe can’t bear to look.
Hoppe, 82, has been a member of the congregation since 1937. She was married in the church in 1959. She also was confirmed and baptized there, as were her two daughters.
Family and friends have offered to drive Hoppe by 209 Allen St. for one last look at the church, but she’s declined.
“I can’t. I don’t know why,” Hoppe told The Post-Crescent. “I remember the beautiful green steeple when you go across the Oneida Street bridge.”
Though the church will be erased from the skyline, its usefulness will live on because the building isn’t being demolished in the usual sense and the resulting debris isn’t being hauled to a landfill.
Rather, the 95-year-old landmark is being deconstructed by a green demolition company called Recyclean Inc. of Kenosha.
“Our No. 1 priority is landfill diversion,” said Josh White, co-owner of Recyclean. “On this project, we’re expecting a diversion rate of over 90%, maybe even as high as 95%.”
Recyclean dismantles buildings and gives the materials to nonprofit warehouses for distribution.
For the church deconstruction, White said more than 95% of the roof insulation will be reused by a property owner in the Watertown area. Boards that can’t be reused as lumber will be ground up for landscaping mulch or livestock bedding.
Stained-glass windows and other architecturally significant elements might go to reclaimed-material design companies like Urban Evolutions.
“Nearly every board from this building is living on,” White said. “It’s going to a new life. It’s going to designers who are making reclaimed furniture. It’s going to be in someone else’s home, hopefully in someone else’s family, for the next 100 years.”
Bob Huss, director of facilities and security for U.S. Venture, said the hiring of Recyclean reflects U.S. Venture’s commitment to the environment.
“It has cost us a substantial amount of money upfront, but just because of our beliefs and our culture, we wanted to do the right thing for the environment and keep things out of the landfill,” Huss said.
White said deconstruction requires more labor than demolition and therefore costs more on the front end of a project. However, giving the materials to nonprofits has tax benefits that offset the higher costs, he said.
Huss said several features of the church — its bell, the front doors, a few pews and items from the alter — were claimed by church parishioners as part of the purchase agreement for the property.
“We’ve been working with them to make sure they get those items,” he said.
During the deconstruction, workers found a Bible in the church and were able to track down the owner to return it.
Huss said the deconstruction of the church will be finished by September.
U.S. Venture continues to work with the city of Appleton on plans for the company’s new headquarters south of Lawrence Street. The Common Council met in closed session June 17 to discuss the project, but the content of the discussion hasn’t been made public.
“We do not have a defined timeline for an announcement of next steps,” said Mercedes Mannino, U.S. Venture’s director of integrated marketing. “Our discussions are ongoing.”
Mannino said U.S. Venture’s primary focus over the past several months has been navigating its business through the coronavirus pandemic and working to ensure the health and safety of its employees.
Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.