Friday, May 23, 2014

Westside Catholic hub St. Adalbert Has Been Restored

For parishioners of St. Adalbert, the restoration of their century-old Romanesque Revival church has been a lengthy and expensive process, and they are overjoyed to see the original beauty their Polish ancestors sacrificed so much to build cleaned, polished, repaired, painted, and restored to its original purpose of glorifying God again.

Over a decade ago, it was obvious to even a less-than-keen observer that the interior of the church needed some repair. Paper was peeling off the walls, and there was staining and plaster damage on the ceilings from water damage. But the full scope and necessity of the work required wasn't clear until a large chunk of plaster fell two stories and crashed to the floor at the back of the sanctuary. Father Thomas DeYoung, then serving, had repairmen and then architectural experts come in to assess the damage - which was revealed to be both extensive and in need of urgent attention. Thus began the five-stage process to "Restore the Glory" of the Basilica of St. Adalbert.

Construction and architecture engineering have changed considerably since St. Adalbert's parishioners began their building project of a second structure in 1907, but every attempt to maintain the integrity of the original structure was maintained. One of the most pressing repairs was the replacement of the roof gutters which were trapping instead of shedding the water that then entered the church and filtered through the plaster, causing it to deteriorate and fall. After the gutters were replaced, the roof was re-tiled with red clay Spanish tiles.

Other choices, made earlier on in the Basilica's history and meant to preserve elements of the church, turned out to be destructive long term. The exterior plastic sheets placed to cover and protect the beautiful stained glass windows did not allow the glass to naturally "breathe," which caused considerable damage over time. Each stain glass window was removed, releaded, and then re-installed. As St. Adalbert has a total of 43 stained glass windows, including the 16-foot, 700-pound "Immaculate Conception" window situated inside the interior dome, this part of the restoration was done in stages.

In 2010 it was time for the Basilica's domes to get a makeover. The original copper was removed and the wooden domes repaired and then covered with new copper shingles, fixed in place with copper nails, rivets and clips. 18,000 square feet of dome surfaces was replaced and then topped with newly gilded crosses, two of which were rebuilt completely as the originals had deteriorated too badly over time.

In 2013, in celebration of the Basilica's 100th anniversary, the altar was restored and repainted, and then this year more repairs were done within the sanctuary. The ceilings of the side aisles are now a vibrant blue, and the altar is a golden yellow. Monseigneur Louis Stasker, the current pastor and rector, has shepherded the parish through the final stages of this process.

Within the five-stage restoration process, more practical repairs and alterations were also undertaken on the parish's basement gathering spaces and bell towers. An elevator was added to make all levels of the structure accessible, and the boilers were replaced.

Although the project was begun and supported with monies raised from the "Restore the Glory" campaign initiated by Father DeYoung, much of the later repair work was also made possible by generous bequests left by lifelong parish members when they died.

Maintenance of a complex structure like this requires constant work and there are still a few projects planned, but the restoration of the facility as a whole is now complete. The Basilica of St. Adalbert is a working piece of art, a credit to our city's founders and their faith, visible to all who pass through downtown on the highways. If you have not seen it, make a point of stopping in some weekend when the church is open. All are welcome.