Recrowning the Jewel of the French Quarter
Rehabs and Restorations Case Study
The St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, La., was built in 1793 and renovated in 1851. It is the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the United States. The cathedral’s hallmark three-spire image is ubiquitous and considered a symbol of New Orleans. Overlooking Jackson Square, it is often the backdrop for everything from live musical performances to films.
Following the major renovation in 1851, the cathedral’s original 1819 bell was incorporated into the new design.
However, after many years, one of St. Louis Cathedral’s famous three spires had structurally declined to the point of great concern. Affected in the deterioration was the housing of the original 1819 church bell. The pilasters on the spire were pulling away from the rest of the structure, contributing to a shifting masonry shell and exterior cracking.
Throughout any potential repair program, technicians would need to leave the appearance of this symbolic structure unaltered and normal operations undisturbed.
Masonry Solutions International (MSI) began by evaluating the spire and its pilasters to determine the extent of the separation and damage. MSI technicians used fiber-optic borescoping and ground-penetrating radar to non-destructively evaluate any underlying structural conditions.
Once a clear understanding of the situation was attained, MSI worked with the design team to develop a multi-pronged approach. The first phase of the program called for pinning the separating pilasters back to the main structure.
MSI designed, manufactured, and installed custom Gruenstark fabric anchorage that was both non-corrosive and non-epoxy based, tying the large stone pillars to the rear supports.
MSI laboratory engineers then developed a customized, compatible CIF, one that would match the characteristics of the spire’s masonry and promote long-term stability, breathability, and sympathetic performance.
Utilizing a low-pressure injection system, MSI techs then carefully injected the spire, immobilizing the masonry shell to prevent future cracking.
Throughout Masonry Solutions’ work, the church bells continued to ring out from St. Louis Cathedral, an outcome not possible with the alternatives originally considered.
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Masonry Solutions International has worked in the field of masonry preservation and enhancement for over 20 years. Visit www.masonrysolutions.com for more information about MSI.