Holy Cross, Lynchburg, starts new restoration
With Phase 1 of a major restoration project completed, parishioners of Holy Cross Church in Lynchburg are about to embark on an expected second necessary project to preserve its historic steeple and slate roof.
Dick Kingsley, a longtime parishioner who is the Church Building Committee’s project manager, said the management team received three competitive bids and is currently negotiating a contract with Midland Engineering Company of South Bend, Ind.
The Indiana firm maintains the slate roofs of all of the more than 200 buildings on the University of Notre Dame campus, including some buildings which are more than 100 years old.
“They don’t handle the gold dome, that is done by Italian craftsmen,” Mr. Kingsley said, “but they do everything else on the Notre Dame buildings.”
There were three competitive bids for the restoration project.
“The bidders were pre-qualified by our consultant, Joseph Jenkins, who is an expert in slate roofing and we consider him the expert in the restoration of slate roofs on historic buildings,” Mr. Kingsley said, adding that the companies which submitted bids all had previous experience working on buildings which are on the National Historic Register.
Midland will subcontract a major portion of the restoration project to Morris Construction of Lynchburg to do carpentry work involved with the restoration of the steeple and roof.
“Part of what we’re concerned about is hidden problems under the slate,” Mr. Kingsley said.
He acknowledged that there will be some changes in the architectural appearance of the slate roof, but that he is pleased with the recommendations made by a parish committee formed to retain the architectural appearance of the restored roof and steeple based upon evidence of the original 1870s design of Holy Cross Church.
The parish committee is chaired by Catherine Madden along with Beth Ann Good, Marge Denham and Bill Fastabend who have worked with architect Jim Vernon of the Lynchburg firm of Craddock Cunningham.
“We expect project construction activities to commence by June 15 and be completed by December 1,” Mr. Kingsley said.
With a professional background in engineering management and project management, Mr. Kingsley, along with Mr. Fastabend, managed the earlier Phase 1 restoration of the interior of Holy Cross Church located in the historic district of downtown Lynchburg.
The 133-year-old sanctuary wooden floor support structure had been extensively damaged by termites.
“The damage was so severe that consultant structural engineers from Master Engineers of Lynchburg deemed the floor unsafe,” Mr. Kingsley told The Catholic Virginian.
“Almost 65 percent of the floor was involved and it had been going on for decades and decades,” he added.
“We also completed detailed investigations of the entire sanctuary using engineers and other technical experts and we kept on finding things,” he added.
Among the many problems were asbestos in the sanctuary crawlspace and the building’s electrical system did not comply with current building codes.
“The attic above the sanctuary had bales of hay, which apparently had been put there for insulation,” he said.
“The boiler room beneath the sanctuary had dirt walls which had been built in the 1870s. There was the old coal bin with a coal-fired boiler put in to heat the church.”
The boiler room is now a completed room with cinder-block walls.
The church lighting in the sanctuary needed to be replaced because the bulbs in the lighting fixtures were no longer made.
“At the same time as the investigation, the roof structure seemed to be in fairly good shape,” Mr. Kingsley said.
“Our priorities were to complete the repairs/restoration of the interior of the sanctuary so that we could resume services in the church and bring everyone back home before beginning work on the steeple and roof,” he added.
Mr. Fastabend, a retired engineer, remembers well the work involved in the Phase 1 project. The parish was unable to use the church sanctuary for almost a year.
“We were displaced right before Easter in 2010,” he said. “We moved back April 1, 2011.”
During that time Mass was celebrated in the church commons with hundreds of folding chairs squeezed in all available spaces. The initial plan was to use the gym of Holy Cross Regional School for the two Sunday liturgies and the commons for the Saturday vigil Mass.
But since the school gym had no air conditioning system, the heat buildup caused several worshippers to pass out on successive Sundays during the early summer. Holy Cross leaders opted to use the church commons for Sunday Mass.
The final cost of Phase 1 restoration was $990,000, a figure higher than the initial projected cost of $898,000.
A consultant with expertise in entomology was brought in to assess the damage of termite infestation and suggest remedies. The consultant from Virginia Tech said that termites eat the soft core of wood, “but after 20 years or more the wooden structures start to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Kingsley said. “That’s why the floor was collapsing.”
“Following the consultants’ recommendations, a termite treatment company has treated all church properties and we have instituted annual inspections of all of the parish properties,” Mr. Kingsley said.
“Part of it was because we kept discovering new problems,” Mr. Kingsley said.
Mr. Jenkins, a roofing expert from Pennsylvania, visited Holy Cross Church on Aug. 11, 2011, made an assessment and gave a report that night to parish leaders. He found that the original slate roof, with Buckingham slate made in Virginia, was in fairly good condition. But he said the roof was riddled with replacement slates that did not match the original roof. He stated in his report that this suggested that roof maintenance was likely done by roofers who did not specialize in slate.
A full report on the Phase 2 project involving the roof and steeple was presented to parishioners during Mass the weekend of May 12-13. It included a powerpoint presentation, complete with new photos as well as historic postcards which depict the original Holy Cross Church.
“We plan to continue with normal operations,” Mr. Fastabend said. “The only problem might be funerals during the week when the work would have to stop because of the noise involved.”
Holy Cross Parish has approximately 800 households and is the same size as neighboring St. Thomas More Parish in the Timberlake area of Lynchburg.
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