Plan to Make Olde Gahanna Bell Tower Glow Takes Off

Original Story by Marla K. Kuhlman, ThisWeek Community News

A historic bell tower in Olde Gahanna might be a beacon for various celebrations in the future.

The Gahanna Foundation is in the process of being formed as a 501c(3) organization, with the lighting of the bell tower of the Olde Gahanna Sanctuary, 82 N. High St., as its first community project.

John Michael Spinelli, treasurer-secretary of the Olde Gahanna Sanctuary Board, is leading the campaign to raise $7,700 for the project. Any funds raised in excess of that amount will go toward other Olde Gahanna Sanctuary or community projects, he said.

Spinelli and his wife, Kathy, hosted a pledge party June 19 with friends and city leaders at their residence to start the initiative.

“We’re going to light up the bell tower on the historic sanctuary with some really unique lighting,” he said. “It will be exterior and circular. We think it will be a new landmark for Gahanna.”

Chris Apfelstadt, who is with Light Up Columbus, is expected to handle the project.

“It’s something we have experience doing around Columbus and in the Chillicothe area,” he said. “I showed (John) a couple projects we’ve done in the past, including the Ross County Courthouse.”

Light Up Columbus also has worked with the city of Dublin to light its city hall for the holidays.

“We’re super excited to light up the architectural features of the Old Gahanna Sanctuary,” Apfelstadt said. “We will use LED fixtures that are controllable. We can make it green for St. Patrick’s Day; red, white and blue for the Fourth of July; orange for Halloween; and everything in between.”

He said the plan is to put 12 fixtures on the tower, with one on each lower-level window, pointing up to highlight the architecture on and above the window.

Four more fixtures are planned on the second level.

“It’s fully programmable, not only for holidays but weddings,” Apfelstadt said. “If a bride chooses lavender, we can make the tower lavender. We’re taking one of the most beautiful architectural features and highlighting it.”

The Olde Gahanna Sanctuary has rented its space for decades, becoming a sought-after venue thanks to its location, affordability and flexible food-service rules.

The structure was built in 1895 as Peace Lutheran Church, although its congregation later moved to Clark State Road.

Spinelli said a single light on a telephone pole was erected last year and that illuminates half the tower.

“Now we’re really going to light this thing up — the arches and the crown,” he said. “It will help business at the Sanctuary. It will be a destination point for Gahanna.

 “We think it will be really, really popular,” he said.

Apfelstadt said he’s looking forward to turning an enthusiastic vision into a reality.

“We want to make it a focal point for the Gahanna, downtown area,” he said.

Tim and Vickie Kapp have pledged $100 for the project.

Vickie Kapp’s mother lives in Gahanna.

“I grew up in Columbus and moved to Hawaii in 1981,” she said. “This is so American and shows pride. As Tim heard the story, he pledged $100 before the story ended. It’s a win-win. It’s tax deductible. Tim is very patriotic. He was in the Marine Corps.”

Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland said it’s a neat project.

“The Sanctuary has been a landmark that has been very unique,” he said. “I applaud John and his wife for getting this going. With a lot of new development in Creekside, this will help with the ambiance of the area.

“I can’t wait to see it finished. It’s a huge icon for Olde Gahanna. It will be awesome,” Kneeland said.

Pledge forms are available at in the lobby area of Gahanna City Hall, 200 S. Hamilton Road or you may click here to download a copy.  For more information about this initiative or about the Olde Gahanna Sanctuary contact 614.475.9265.