Steeple Repairs 1947-1950


The steeple area defined as the part of the church above the gallery is one of the few places of the church that most parishioners have not visited.  Stories have arisen that we almost lost the steeple during the early Faulkner years in the late 1940’s. Part of this came from a letter.

The issue arose in October, 1947 with the Vestry authorizing the Property Committee, forerunner of Buildings and Ground to have the work done to repair the steeple. It is unclear who made the first observations of the steeple. A. W. Mitchell described the steeple in the following terms in a December, 1947 letter – “the steeple is built on four large timbers and these four timbers rest on two large cross pieces that are embedded in the brick wall of the Church, and it is the lower pieces that are rotten and in bad condition.” He noted the importance. “When the steeple jack first went up in the steeple and saw the woodwork he gave us the impression the steeple was about to fall and we would like to know if it would be safe to let it remain as it is or whether it is something that requires immediate attention.” Hughes-Foulkrod, a Pa. company which would had done work for the American Viscose company in Fredericksburg, was chosen for the  initial inspection.

Hughes-Foulkrod  in a letter of Jan 21, 1948 inspected the steeple and found that one of the 9’x11’ timbers which supported the  main supports of the steeple was in poor condition. Their method was a steel beam near the top of the brickwork of the tower. It would be installed by cutting pockets in the interior of the brickwork to support the beam. The beam would be anchored down with two cables. The timber in question would be replaced with two small structural channels This did not include replacing any sheathing. The estimate for the work was $1000 to $1,500.

The December meeting authorized the work, Hughes-Foulkrod. By  February, 1948,  they would undertake the repair work  “to make the steeple safe as soon as possible and the remaining work to be done within a reasonable time thereafter.” By April 6, 1948, steel had been used to shore up the steeple based on an appreciative letter from A. W. Mitchell. “I want to express my appreciation for reinforcing the steeple with the steel as I no longer worry about the steeple toppling over.”  The Church paid $633.46 for this work (May 18th letter from the company).

Lewis instructed at; the March vestry to obtain an estimate from H-F. However, the matter dragged on until a letter was received from the company in August, 1948 with the bad news – it was to be a costly repair. At the time, the Church had undertaken another project to repair the “Sunday School Room” (Faulkner Hall).  The fund for improvement was at $3,512.16 but  $1,832.09 had been spent on the latter project. Some repair work totaling $800 had been done by H-F. 

In a letter to Charles Lewis, then chairman of the Building Committee, Hughes-Foulkrod estimated $25,692 for repairs which included removing the tin on the steeple and replace the same with 16 oz copper. It included replacing the wooden louvers with copper and screen and removal of defective lumber. The repair also included removing the original plaster in the bell room and replacing with 1” roof sheething. But would not include any painting.  The price was not guaranteed – basically be cost plus 10% for overhead and profit. The project was difficult to estimate.

The company said clearly in the latter that “we would much rather not have anything further to do with this work, as we are very busy and the hazard in making these repairs is very great.” 

They quickly found another company, Blackwell Engineering from Warrenton. The Vestry passed a resolution in September that Blackwell Construction Co be requested to make specs for work on steeple and roof. Having received a letter from the Company in October, the Vestry on October 25, 1948 at a special meeting decided to employ the company. Their bid was for $15,367. A letter was sent the next day. This contract would be a fixed-fee contract that would also include painting the brick portion of the work.

Work included repairing the framing timbers to the tower and steeple, renew the sheathing and included repairing or replacing the cornice or other wood work  The contract would be for the steeple but the Church anticipated a roof replacement which would be part of a separate contract. (They had bid $1900 for that job and the December vestry authorized a asbestos roof and to have the exterior of the church painted). The Church would be scaffolded and the “work will be rushed to completion as fast as possible” to keep costs low. They anticipated work would be finished before the early winter of 1949. The Vestry authorized a $20,000 loan for the project. The budget for 1949 also included a reserve of $4,500 for repairs. In January, another special meeting approved $3,820 for another company J.B. Broaddus to actually put slate on the Church roof  above the cost of $2,400 for asbestos shingles.

By May, the work was extended. In May, 1949 the Vestry voted to give the Building Committee authority to proceed in making necessary repairs to  replace sheathing to put on a new roof on previously approved cost+ basis. Also approved was to get competitive bids on lighting the attic inside the steeple. The costs for the roof and steeple accelerated to $32,000 from $20,000 authorized. Based on the amount, the Diocese approved the loan in August.  (On July 3 it was reported to Vestry that John Herndon had  paid $100 for gold leafing on Cross on steeple.)

On June 22, 1949 a final inspection by Carl Torrance of Richmond roof framing stated the roof is capable supporting the new roof deck and new slate roof. It suggested that “joints of the truss, second from back, be wedged with hardwood wedges and that steel clamps be applied be applied to the top cord members that are showing considerable cracks from age”.


 However, there were still problems based on letter from October 21, 1950 –

  • two downspouts from north gutter are throwing water off the cement gutter drain
  • Two louvers are leaking on the north side are leaking in water around the circle at the top and on both sides.
  • Leak over the organ chamber

The $32,000 loan was paid in 1955.

Vestry action Jan 7, 1955. Authorization from 1954 surplus to pay remaining $5,500

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