From the Tradition for Tomorrow blog comes this update on the restoration of the Oratory, with some detail on the finances necessary to save and restore this gem of religion and culture:
The Problem with the Tower
The specific structural problem of St Francis de Sales church tower lies deeply buried in its foundation. A geotechnical engineering survey of the tower’s subterranean condition has revealed that this massive structure is supported by a mere 9-foot thick concrete platform that has deteriorated over the past century. The inadequate support is exacerbated by the fact that the foundation rests on soil, which has shifted over time.
While the deterioration of the tower’s foundation is not detectable above ground, its effects on the tower itself and on the rest of the church building are visible and problematic. Damage caused by the shifted foundation can be seen at the church windows on both sides of the choir loft.
There are visible half-inch wide cracks which run from the roof eave to the tracery of the window. Some extend 40 to 45 feet down the structure. As a result, some of the window’s brickwork has been displaced. The huge stained glass window in the vicinity of the crack is bowed several inches toward the inside of the choir loft. Inevitable seepage of water and debris through these cracks will cause further deterioration of the walls, windows, and the building’s interior.
Superficial repairs of the cracks will not solve the problem. Without addressing the root cause beneath the ground, existing cracks in the church building will continue to propagate and new ones formed.
The structural problems of the tower building have solutions. Less than twenty feet beneath the current concrete foundation there is sold bedrock that can support a good new foundation.
A detailed plan for remedial construction of the tower’s foundation has been prepared following the engineering study. We know it is feasible to construct a new underpinning system that is solidly attached to the bedrock, thereby reinforcing the current foundation. It is feasible to strengthen the century-old edifice, and to provide a secure, durable support for the massive tower for the future.
Restoration of the oratory is not about the preservation of a bygone civilization, but about our own living, breathing culture, our own times, and our own community. When shafts of light penetrate the magnificent stained glass windows, and when glorious music fill the space beneath the spire, they are appreciated, not by anthropologists studying the past, but by ordinary St. Louisians who aspire to higher things for themselves and for their children.
Yes, this century-old building has structural problems due to its age. Yes, there are sound and sensible solutions to these problems. The question is: Will we implement them?
Facts and Figures
Projected phases of the restoration:
Steeple clean-up, bird elimination, safe access $75,000
Clock - rehabilitate $15,000
Restoration Phase II (partial projection)
Tuckpointing entire church, clean terra cotta $250,000
Stair rail repair $20,000