The Latest Restoration Updates

Nearly eight years after the 2011 earthquake that rocked the Cathedral, repairs continue as funding becomes available. Even though we have a long road ahead, we’ve made remarkable progress. Recent projects include:

The West Towers

As the seismic waves traveled up from the ground, the earthquake forces intensified until they let loose atop the Cathedral’s three signature towers.

Atop the two towers on the Cathedral’s western façade, slender pinnacles rattled and rolled and hand-carved angels wiggled out of place. A 350-pound finial fell 20 stories off the northwest tower and embedded itself into the ground outside the main visitor’s entrance. It was stolen the night of the quake.

Crews disassembled twin pinnacles on each tower and the eight angel figures from each spire were lined up along the tower’s roof. They remained there until the spring of 2017, when crews reinforced and rebuilt the two intermediate pinnacles, one on each tower. Crews drilled 11-foot holes down into each tower and inserted a 18-foot stainless steel reinforcement rod that will provide a stabilized core for the rebuilt pinnacles.

The work allowed crews to remove the protective scaffolding, returning the twin towers to their original grandeur.


The South Transept

On the Cathedral’s south side, about 20 stories up from the ground, one of the most severely damaged areas was a grand turret, a round pointed tower supported by columns. On each of the twin turrets, eight prophets from the Old Testament bore witness to the Cathedral’s mission as a house of prayer for all people.

During the 2011 earthquake, the turret slid this way and that, and the columns were jarred about eight inches out of place. Experts say if the quake had last a few more seconds, the whole structure would have collapsed.

While the southeast turret survived largely intact, the southwest turret was severely shaken and was shrouded in protective scaffolding. On the fifth anniversary, in 2016, engineers recommended dismantling the turret if funds were not available to begin restoration work immediately.

In the summer of 2017, a large crane lifted the turret’s 93 pieces to the ground – about 40,000 pounds of stone. The eight prophets will spend the foreseeable future keeping watch over the lawn, getting a makeover in the stone masons’ shop, or on display in the nave.


Help Support Restoration

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt heralded “the work begun this noon” and 83 years later, in 1990, President George H. W. Bush praised “the work completed this noon and the new work yet to begin.”

That new work awaits us still, and we thank you for your support.

help restore the glory

phase 2 repairs in-depth


Phase 2: The Road Ahead

Given the magnitude of funding required to complete Phase 2 repairs, the Cathedral has mapped out ways to implement the work in multiple sub-phases. Nine phases were planned to the work into more manageable projects that could be executed as funding becomes available. Unfortunately, this strategy means that it could take another 10 to 15 years before the earthquake repairs are fully completed.

The sub-phases with estimated costs (based on 2015 evaluations) are as follows:

quake key

Phase 2 Planning

quake map




In 2015, a 300-pound portion of a 450-pound pinnacle fell from the north transept and landed on the roof directly above the dean’s office and in the adjoining garth garden. Engineers concluded that the falling stone likely had been cracked during the earthquake and had become even more unstable during the subsequent winter freeze/thaw cycles.

Using the “chisel ready” drawings completed after the earthquake, the Cathedral mobilized the masonry and scaffolding contractors to address repairs to the facade of the north transept in the spring of 2016, including the area where decorative piece dislodged from the building.

The estimated $24 million or more of Phase 2 repairs will capture all of the remaining exterior earthquake repairs that include:

Central Tower Grand Pinnacles

These enormous pinnacles will be reinforced and rebuilt.

Transept Grand Pinnacles

The north and south transept grand pinnacles are more ornate than other pinnacles. The pinnacles will require disassembly, reinforcement, repair and reassembly. Portions of secondary pinnacles will be recarved.

Engaged Buttresses

All 38 engaged buttresses on the Cathedral with their slender pinnacles will be restored. The work will include reinforcing any loose pinnacle stones, repairs to broken or chipped stones, cleaning and repointing.


Lead roofing that was punctured by falling earthquake debris will be repaired. Continuing in the “while you are at it” approach, a number of deferred maintenance items will be addressed.



Phase 2a Begins



Photo: Colin Winterbottom

Photos: Colin Winterbottom