REHABILITATION OF INTERIOR
Saint Mary Cathedral is a 19th century neo-gothic, load-bearing, masonry building designed by Nicholas Clayton. By 2003 the landmark required significant repair. Our project vision aimed to restore and preserve the Cathedral within the historic context and it’s covenant restrictions, while acknowledging the possibilities for programmatic changes. Within the parish there was a strong desire to return the Cathedral to its former glory, but equal to that was the demand to upgrade and maintain various building systems to satisfy current code and comfort. Continue Reading…
The building was constructed in the 1870’s. Archival photographs revealed a visual clarity to the architectural and interior composition. The nave was organized by repetitive architectural elements and furnishings while the apse elements were highly expressive and more decorative. In the mid-20th century an effort was made to strip the interior of decorative detailing. The darker, mahogany-styled finishes of the Victorian period, were white-washed. The original confessionals were removed and a mezzanine level was introduced lowering the narthex ceiling to an 8-foot height. Also at that time, larger confessionals were installed dividing the entry space from the nave thus reducing the narthex to a 5’ corridor. The cathedral remained in this unfortunate and compromised manner until the changes were made in 2003-2005 .
The rehabilitation planning process began in 1995 with a feasibility study that Holly Kincannon (formerly of ARCHAIC) submitted, which outlined the building committee’s goals and cost estimates for the comprehensive program. In 2003, the rehabilitation project began and included reorganization of the Cathedral’s narthex, the removal of the 1950’s mezzanine level, relocation of the choir loft stairs to the East Tower’s original location, upgrade and relocation of the HVAC and electrical systems. The project also included the design and placement of a new tracery wall that created an elegant separation between the narthex and the nave. Since glass was used as a primary material the narthex could now double as a cry room that was previously located on the mezzanine level.
Throughout the Cathedral most finishes were reworked including decorative painting by Julia Dworschack, the insertion of a travertine floor, and the refurbishing of pews to match the originals. Other elements restored involved the uncovering of existing stained- glass windows, uncovering of the older altar in the apse, and finally the reintroduction of a wood wainscot and a newly designed crucifix for this sacred space.
The project was successful on many levels, but comments that were most impactful came from those that included family memories. At the dedication ceremony many folks came to thank us for the dramatic renewal. One parishioner shook our hands earnestly and said, “ Thank you, thank you for giving Grandmama’s cathedral back to me.”