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The cost and funding sources won't be known until a plan for the restoration at the Roanoke church is complete.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Repairing the steeples at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke will mean covering the church’s facade with scaffolding, the pastor said.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
St. Andrew's Catholic Church sits on a hill overlooking downtown Roanoke.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
One of the most familiar parts of Roanoke’s skyline needs some work.
The twin steeples of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church are in need of major repairs, according to an assessment by engineers who examined the roof of the 111-year-old structure earlier this summer.
Monsignor Thomas Miller, pastor of St. Andrew’s, told the congregation during weekend services about the need for repairs. A letter distributed to parishioners stated that the engineers’ study “revealed previously unseen deterioration that has resulted from years of exposure to the elements.”
“While this is not a cause for immediate alarm,” the leaflet continued, “it is something that needs our attention in the very near future.”
During an interview on Tuesday, Miller confirmed that he told parishioners that he just wanted to “give them a heads up — no pun intended.”
Troy Brown, the general manager of W.A. Lynch Roofing Co. in Lynchburg, was one of the people who inspected the cross-topped steeples from a crane earlier this summer. He said that the steeples have structural damage and show signs of termite damage. The east steeple (the one on the right, as you face the church’s main entrance) also leans a bit, Brown said.
“It needs to be dealt with,” Brown said. “It’s not going to fall tomorrow, but the east steeple is in rougher shape than the west steeple.”
The steeples measure about 140 feet from the ground to the tops of the crosses. The repair project could take five to six months, Brown said, and might not begin until early next year, in order not to disrupt services during the Christmas season. A third, shorter steeple also will undergo repairs.
The project will require scaffolding to cover much of the church’s front, all the way to the tops of the steeples, a fact that prompted the dry-humored pastor to say that “next to the Washington Monument, it will be the most interesting scaffolding in the country.”
Church leaders will meet soon with engineers and representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond to plan the repairs. R.L. Price Construction of Salem will be the project’s contractor.
“It’s a work in progress,” Miller said. “We haven’t determined yet how to tackle this project. Therefore, we haven’t determined the cost. Therefore, we haven’t determined how to fund the project.”
Miller said that repairing the steeples will be the costliest project at St. Andrew’s since the parish center was completed in 2002. That project added 16,000 square feet to the church at a cost of nearly $3.8 million.
Funding for the repairs will come mostly from church members, but Miller hopes that the building’s historic status will make it eligible to receive money from preservation groups. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The medieval, French Gothic-style church sits atop a high hill off North Jefferson Street near downtown Roanoke, making it an iconic feature of the city’s skyline. The church was built in 1902 at a cost of $108,000. The sandstone exterior is painted gold and cream, and its slate roof features copper finishing.
Miller said that some patchwork repairs are evident inside the steeples, but it took a thorough inspection to reveal the extent of the damage. The church replaced lightning rods atop the steeples in 2010 after a bolt struck the east steeple. The steeples are made of wood, but might be reinforced with steel during the repairs.
“It’s amazing, when you consider that everything the steeples have seen since their construction more than 110 years ago, that the deterioration had not manifested itself earlier,” Miller said.
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