Month: October 2019


uncovered window

Since the last post the project has been in full swing.  Here is a summary:

What has been done:

  • The tower windows have been examined. Some have been found to be in need of immediate attention due to decaying wooden frames and cracks on the terra cotta sills. A cost estimate has been prepared for the repair and this may be added to the current scope of work.
  • The east façade rose window has been dismantled. This was an amazing feat considering there were no drawings from the original construction to provide guidance. Reinforcements were placed to maintain the window’s structural integrity, and then the terra cotta surrounding the window was gently removed.  A conscious effort was made to save as many blocks as possible.
  • The underlying metal support system was determined to be a small central ring that lead to spokes, which in turn were connected to a larger ring. This large ring was surrounded by 16 smaller rings.  How this was all assembled and held together necessitated a design change in the planned replacement structure.
  • All of the supporting metal showed some corrosion, but not excessive amounts. According to our consultant John Fidler (of John Fidler Preservation Technology), the cracks could also be from rainwater laden with salts, corrosion of unprotected metal, previous seismic movements, or simply aging of the terra cotta itself.
  • It was discovered that the terra cotta is not just one design replicated, but rather a large number of unique pieces that attach to the metal support or the adjacent terra cotta in an individual manner. This has made for challenges in making sure that all the right pieces are reproduced.
  • Exact measurements of the brick opening for the window were taken. Surprisingly enough, it was found to be an oval and not a true circle. This has also created design challenges for the replacement structures.
  • Preparations have been made for future installation of the new terra cotta. These include some paint removal, cleansing of the brick and the creation of a custom color matched patch system.
  • Salvaged as well as broken terra cotta bricks were labelled as to their original locations, and then stored. Some pieces were carefully packaged and sent to the terra cotta manufacture Darwen for copying.  Others have been retained for reuse, or as a reference.
  • A color match for the new terra cotta has been finalized and is being used by Darwen.
  • A brickyard has been chosen for any necessary replacement bricks. Although the original brick manufacture is no longer in business, another brickyard using clay from the same clay bed has been found.
  • New fireproof thermal acoustic insulation has been placed inside the interior scaffolding sheath. This provides greater temperature and noise abatement.  In the future it could be moved to an attic space in the church to provide extra insulation.
  • The rose window has been shrink wrapped for increased weather proofing while awaiting the new terra cotta.
  • Our church’s Historic Building Preservation Committee has secured a $100,000 matching grant from Partners for Sacred Places’ National Fund. Even with this, efforts continue to find other grants and community support to assist with this project.


What is next:

  • Methods to repair the damaged street level sills and pillars on the north and façades are being developed.
  • A custom match for the replacing joint sealant is being developed.
  • Brick repair will begin on the east façade.
  • A public lecture will be presented by John Fidler at the church on November 10. This will include a detailed description of the project in its entirety, and a brief tour of the building.


All in all, the removal of the rose window has been a little like opening Pandora’s box.  Happily, we have highly skilled consultants and crew to assist us.

We all anxiously await the arrival of our new terra cotta and the ability to progress to the next phase of the project