February 26, 2017

Well it’s time to get the old hard hat out of storage.

We had planned to take a pause in our capital campaign work as we celebrate our Centennial this year, but events of last weekend forced our hand a bit.

Last Saturday morning, 8:00 a.m. Mass attendees discovered that one of the bottom granite panels on the north pillar in front of the Cathedral had fallen to the ground.  As best we can tell, a clip holding the 700-pound piece in place must have snapped, and the whole panel flopped out onto the mulch. 

Within a couple of hours, two of our contractors were on site.  I will forever be grateful that John Rigali from Daprato Rigali Studios and Brian Ward from Ward Consulting and Building Restoration answered the call and were quick to respond.

Once they ascertained that the piece that fell was not a supporting beam, our goal was to secure the area first and the pillars second.  By mid-afternoon, the fencing that now graces our front entrance was up so no one could get close to the pillars.

Then on Monday, lifts were brought in and a crew worked all day to band both pillars.  Each yellow band (and yes, yellow was the only color available on short notice—trust me I asked!) can support a 4,000 pound load.  There are two bands per section, so we are confident that the pillars are stabilized.

So now what?

That was the question we posed at a meeting on Tuesday that brought contractors, architects, roofers and Diocesan staff to the table. 

The first goal is to get a real understanding of how the pillars were built in the early 50s.  A search of the archives found hand-drawn blueprints that will certainly be used to get a better understanding of what we are dealing with.

A second step is to determine where the water is coming from and how it gets inside the pillars.  As we all expected, the issues with the pillars all revolve around water.  The interior bricks that were exposed when the piece fell are wet and crumbling.  Clearly, water is inside and the freeze/thaw cycle is not our friend.

On Wednesday a team of structural engineers were on site to begin to determine a course of action.  These guys work like forensic engineers to determine what happened and why.  We estimate their work should take about a month, which means at this point, it is too soon to tell if we will  completely replace the pillars or if we will be able to salvage some of the granite.

I’m not a big fan of having more questions than answers, but I am confident that we are working toward a sensible plan that will restore these pillars for the next 100 years.

The restoration of the pillars has been a part of our Centennial Capital Campaign from the beginning. (In fact, repairing the pillars was on the project list during the 1991 renovation but got cut.)  We had hoped to wait until 2018 to do these major repairs, but it’s a 2017 project now.

As always, I promise to keep you up-to-date on what surely will be an interesting project.

All the best,
Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development and Project Liaison
straysdevelopment@yahoo.com
815-722-6653, extension 242

 

 

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