April 23, 2017

Well we are certainly jumping into this construction thing with both feet. 

Our team from Ward Contracting was on site bright and early Easter Monday.  After moving their stuff in (those guys don’t travel light!), they began creating a safe workspace.

That involved a two truckloads of plywood.  First, they covered the outside granite plaza with plywood to protect the stone floor.  Then they enclosed the two limestone    Corinthian columns.  Those interior columns are in great shape—and we want to keep it that way.  (For the record, each column is a single piece of limestone.  Pretty       amazing.)

The next step was to cover the front of the Cathedral to  protect the glass doors and the three stained glass windows that are under the portico. As I write this, they are working on this project.  I suspect we won’t like not having natural light in the narthex, but this is a necessary precaution.

Once everything is covered, they will begin demolition.  From the bottom up, the portico roof consists of three layers:  plaster ceiling, structural concrete deck and on the top, the roof membrane. We need to expose the concrete deck to see what we have to work with, so the plaster ceiling will have to go first. 

This week will be spent shoring up the portico so we can start removing the granite and limestone pieces.  These pieces are massive—some weigh as much as a small car—so removing them will be quite an enterprise.  Our contractors will take great care to preserve these pieces—especially the limestone with the letters spelling out  Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus.

By the time all of that is done, we should be able to get a good understanding of exactly what we are dealing with.  The key question is whether the steel beams in the portico roof are in good shape.  I wouldn’t bet on it.  But once we know for sure, a restoration plan can be crafted.

A few weeks ago, our team of contractors, engineers and architects met to discuss the project.  During that meeting it was suggested that we consider doing the Tower            tuckpointing project at the same time we take on the pillar restoration project. (No, we aren’t gluttons for punishment.)  The theory was that both projects would require some of the same heavy equipment, and there is likely a savings in  doing the two projects together.

It was a good theory.  It is now a necessity.  A few days after that meeting, a small piece of limestone fell off the Tower when the bells were being rung for a long period of time.  In his wonderfully optimistic way, Fr. Brad called this an affirmation that we are on the right course.

Clearly we had to close off the Cloister and make a secure passage to the south Cathedral door.  I must say that the fencing doesn’t look nearly as awful as I expected.  In fact, it now looks like a great place for a small herd of goats….If only they made goat-sized hard hats.

So much is going on—April and May are our busiest months.  We’ll have more to talk about next week, but for now, I’m  wondering have you written YOUR St. Raymond story?  Deadline is May 15 for inclusion in our commemorative magazine.

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development and Project Liaison
straysdevelopment@yahoo.com | 815-722-6653, ext. 242



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