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Cathedral Attic Access Improvements and Structural Reinforcement

Paterson, New Jersey

The Diocese of Paterson, NJ is undertaking a major renovation of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in downtown Paterson (http://www.rcdop.org/cathedral-project), and FHTC has been contracted to perform some minor improvements to the joinery connections of the huge roof trusses which carry the slate roof far above the cathedral nave where the parisoners gather for mass, and to install a series of access walkways and ladders to allow safe passage for maintenance personnel above the cieling and among the massive timbers.

We are working with Paragon Restoration Corporation, a long-established and respected general contracting firm specializing in first-quality large scale restorations projects (http://www.paragoncorp.com/), and the project is lead by Architect Arthur Sikula (http://ajsa.com/) who's work on landmark houses of worship is unexcelled in this era.

Click on images below to view at larger size.


Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Paterson, NJ

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Paterson, NJ
Beautiful inside as well as out, the Cathedral has been closed for several years due to worries over falling plaster ceilings.

Beautiful inside as well as out, the Cathedral has been closed for several years due to worries over falling plaster ceilings.
Restoration work will include structural masonry, structural timber work, an interior re-fit, and stained glass resotration.

Restoration work will include structural masonry, structural timber work, an interior re-fit, and stained glass resotration.
Our work is all up above the decorative ceiling -- between 45 and 80 feet above the main floor.

Our work is all up above the decorative ceiling -- between 45 and 80 feet above the main floor.
High above the floor of the nave and aisles, the attic spaces are strictly utilitarian, full of construction debris, and hard to access for maintenance.

High above the floor of the nave and aisles, the attic spaces are strictly utilitarian, full of construction debris, and hard to access for maintenance.
The large main trusses hold up the slate roof and the decorative vaulted plaster ceiling.  The large (8"x12") oak timbers are still doing a great job after 150 years of service, but need a little maintenance to ensure they keep up the good work for another century and a half.

The large main trusses hold up the slate roof and the decorative vaulted plaster ceiling. The large (8"x12") oak timbers are still doing a great job after 150 years of service, but need a little maintenance to ensure they keep up the good work for another century and a half.
Inspections revealed loose bolts...

Inspections revealed loose bolts...
Some bolts can be tightened a long way.

Some bolts can be tightened a long way.
And also joints which had opened over time.

And also joints which had opened over time.
Sometimes too far!

Sometimes too far!
These large ships-knee joints are very strong, but need to be well-secured.

These large ships-knee joints are very strong, but need to be well-secured.
As we return to begin our work, other craftsmen are preparing to tackle the huge task of locating and repairing damage to the millions of stones which make up the walls and steeple.

As we return to begin our work, other craftsmen are preparing to tackle the huge task of locating and repairing damage to the millions of stones which make up the walls and steeple.
When the work starts 45 feet up in the air, just getting tools and materials into the work space is a challenge!

When the work starts 45 feet up in the air, just getting tools and materials into the work space is a challenge!
A set of dormers, apparently unused parts from the original construction, were moved from the loft space for safe-keeping.

A set of dormers, apparently unused parts from the original construction, were moved from the loft space for safe-keeping.
Now, to work on closing up those open joints.

Now, to work on closing up those open joints.
A bit of rigging to gently draw the framing back together.

A bit of rigging to gently draw the framing back together.
A little more pressure applied, but it seems the old frame is quite happy where it was!  We'll secure it against future movement and not risk applying too much force.

A little more pressure applied, but it seems the old frame is quite happy where it was! We'll secure it against future movement and not risk applying too much force.
Another of our tasks is to provide for much more substantial safe access for workmen servicing the lights and other systems up in the roof spaces.

Another of our tasks is to provide for much more substantial safe access for workmen servicing the lights and other systems up in the roof spaces.
A series of access ladders and walkways will protect both the workers and the building.

A series of access ladders and walkways will protect both the workers and the building.
In a building this long and large, accessing the whole space means lots of ladders and lots of walkways!  The aisles are 145 feet long.

In a building this long and large, accessing the whole space means lots of ladders and lots of walkways! The aisles are 145 feet long.
Handrails are always important for keeping personnel safe.  It may not look like it, but it is a very long way down from here...

Handrails are always important for keeping personnel safe. It may not look like it, but it is a very long way down from here...
The original ceiling rafters were surprisingly poorly assembled, with odd splices left carrying too much weight without proper support.  Modern lumber "sisters" help stabilize things and also carry our new walks.

The original ceiling rafters were surprisingly poorly assembled, with odd splices left carrying too much weight without proper support. Modern lumber "sisters" help stabilize things and also carry our new walks.
The original trusses dwarf the modern lumber we're installing.

The original trusses dwarf the modern lumber we're installing.
But with so much access needed, there is a LOT of new material going in.  We've installed 328 eighteen foot long 2x8s, hundreds of handrail braces, and thousands of heavy timber lock screws.  The historic timbers now swim in a sea of factory milled framing lumber!

But with so much access needed, there is a LOT of new material going in. We've installed 328 eighteen foot long 2x8s, hundreds of handrail braces, and thousands of heavy timber lock screws. The historic timbers now swim in a sea of factory milled framing lumber!