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Cathedral of the
Immaculate Conception
Exterior Restoration

The most severe and expensive problems at the Cathedral have involved deterioration of brownstone masonry facing of the building.  While the brick backup structure was generally in sound condition, the progressive deterioration and particular de-lamination of the facing stone has been a chronic condition posing a serious public safety hazard from falling stone and allowing deterioration of the building structure itself.  The Diocese mandated that solutions must be long term and not continue to defer critical problems to short-term solutions.  Analysis of restoration options concluded with the decision to implement comprehensive replacement of the brownstone.  Phase I addressed areas of greatest deterioration and those areas necessary to accomplish the replacement of the upper roof.  These areas included the clerestory walls, crenelated parapets, and the entire north tower.  A search for replacement stone was undertaken.  MCWB worked with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to identify and test replacement stone options.  After much research, the replacement stone chosen was St. Bee’s from the Cumbria region of England.  MCWB carefully measured and prepared detailed drawings of each stone, identifying precise size and shape, and creating a numbering system for each stone.  A database was compiled to enable bidders to price each stone and to ensure competitive and accurate bidding.  The process of construction included the preparation of shop drawings and the ordering of stone by MCWB; representing the Diocese in a direct purchase of the stone material.  MCWB also established and ran a stone shop at the site to ensure that the setting contractor always had stone fabricated and ready for installation. The stone shop fabricated many complex stone pieces including the clock tracery and the tower finial.  MCWB hired master mason Stephen Boyle to run the shop and to teach an apprentice banker mason program in conjunction with the local masons' union.  In all, over 12,000 blocks of new stone were fabricated an replaced during Phase I.

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