The Cathedral’s Restoration Task Force (RTF), established in September 2011, approached the one-year anniversary of the August 23, 2011, earthquake by developing a comprehensive set of recommendations prioritizing capital needs for the Cathedral and nearby buildings under its control. The RTF’s report took into account seismic damage from the earthquake as well as pre-existing facilities and fine arts projects, deferred maintenance issues, and newly recommended items.
The task force presented to the Cathedral Chapter in its meeting on October 1, 2012, and the Chapter accepted its recommendation to proceed with two large projects: restoration of interior vaulting in the nave of the Cathedral and restoration of the exterior (particularly flying buttresses) of the apse.
The interior restoration, which is expected to take 18 months, will involve a series of scaffolds designed to reach the high vaulting in the great choir, crossing, nave, transepts, and balconies. The goal of the restoration work is to inspect the entire vaulting, remove any loose mortar, and make the requisite repairs. Certain deferred maintenance issues—notably the need to remove stains caused by water intrusion—will be addressed, and new side lancets for the Isaiah clerestory window will be installed. The protective netting currently hanging in the nave, installed to catch debris that might have shaken loose after the earthquake, will be removed as the repairs are completed.
Work will also begin to restore the exterior of the apse, and this too will combine earthquake repair with completion of deferred maintenance issues. A series of large scaffolds will be erected to provide the first up-close look at damage to the flying buttresses that ring the apse, one of the earliest-constructed portions of the Cathedral; once assessed, the appropriate repairs will be completed. The scaffolding will also provide access to begin a Cathedral-wide project of repointing (replacing deteriorated mortar joints). The 65-foot Te Deum windows located on either side of the high altar will be restored, curing the ongoing water intrusion problem that occurs during driving rain. The entire apse restoration is expected to take at least two years.
Progress on these projects should be visible in the coming months, although no starting dates were available at time of publication.
The transformative $5 million lead grant from the Lilly Endowment, announced on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, officially launched the Cathedral’s active phase of restoration. Between $16 and $20 million is still needed to complete that work, however, depending on whether the restoration can be tackled as one continuous project or as a series of smaller jobs. Another $40 million is needed to address the other long-term and deferred-maintenance needs of the Cathedral and its buildings on the Close.