By JACOB PERRYMAN
It took approximately $120,000 and more than five months to complete, but it all got pulled together in the end.
Photo by Jacob Perryman
The Irvine Presbyterian Church, also known as the “old stone church”, has undergone repairs and is ready for service again. The building is nearly 175 years old.
The Irvine Presbyterian Church has undergone some major structural adjustments this summer, but, with the exception of a few minor cosmetic touches, the work is done.
In late 2011, Erie-based contractor Fiske and Sons was called to the church to investigate cracks which had begun to rapidly creep further down the church's walls from the ceiling. They soon discovered the cracks were the result of a sagging roof. The church does not have a continuous roof beam to shoulder weight.
Engineering reports on the matter soon found the walls of the church, due to later additions to strengthen the roof, were unable to bear the load and had begun to warp outward.
The walls, actually consisting of an interior wall and a 21-inch-thick exterior wall with a space between, were supporting the entire weight of the roof and ceiling plus the later additions alone. The result was a set of exterior walls slowly bowing outward.
It wasn't a slight distortion either. A level placed along a four-foot section of wall showed a two-inch distortion. In total, the walls bowed as much as eight inches outward from were they should have been.
Something had to be done, and preferably before winter snowfall added even more weight.
To set the walls through the 2011-12 winter, screw jacks were put into place along the church's center aisle with steel cables anchored along the walls. The measure cost approximately $450 per month, or about half of what the total cost of building the church was in 1838 when it was erected.
Over the summer, the church's roof was raised a handful of feet above the walls, relieving them of the stress of their burden while repair work went on. The walls were disassembled far enough to allow access and the space inside of them was filled to improve load bearing. The walls were re-assembled and the roof was replaced one half at a time to re-create the building's vaulted ceiling. Scissor trusses were also added to increase strength.
While work was being done, time was taken to spruce up the church and add some needed polish. The building was restored to its original look with window-hinged lights designed to mimic the original oil lamp fixtures in the church. The doors were refinished and the original pews, altar and other furniture were cleaned and repaired as needed and placed back in the church.
On Sept. 28 and 29, a "renovation Celebration Fall Fest" will be held at the church. From 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Irvine Presbyterian Church will host artisans, an open house and food.