National Cathedral Still Shaken by Earthquake That Struck 2 Years Ago

National Journal
Courtney Mcbride
See more stories about...
Courtney McBride
Aug. 22, 2013, 3:01 p.m.

It was two years ago Fri­day that a rare earth­quake shook the na­tion’s cap­it­al, leav­ing most build­ings in the Wash­ing­ton area un­harmed but tak­ing a toll on two of the city’s most icon­ic struc­tures — the Wash­ing­ton Monu­ment and the Na­tion­al Cathed­ral.

Perched atop Mount St. Al­ban and vis­ible from most points in the city, the cathed­ral sus­tained sig­ni­fic­ant dam­age, from the crack­ing of rooftop fini­als to the top­pling of pin­nacles and the open­ing of cracks in fly­ing but­tresses of the apse.

Much like the monu­ment, the soar­ing Goth­ic edi­fice re­mains shrouded in scaf­fold­ing two years after the quake. Cathed­ral ad­min­is­trat­ors out­lined the pro­gress of the res­tor­a­tion ef­forts dur­ing a press con­fer­ence Thursday. From the unique vant­age point of a “dance floor” plat­form 60 feet above the west bal­cony over the cathed­ral’s nave, the mag­nitude of the task is clear: The nave stretches ap­prox­im­ately one-tenth of a mile.

One year ago, ma­sons placed one of the first stones to be re­paired atop the cent­ral tower. An­drew Hullinger, seni­or dir­ect­or of fin­ance and ad­min­is­tra­tion, noted that the move was largely sym­bol­ic, as “we’ve done very little work up there since then.” In­stead, the fo­cus has shif­ted to­ward a com­pre­hens­ive as­sess­ment of the scope of the dam­age and to plan­ning for res­tor­a­tion.

Even the scaf­fold­ing on the ex­ter­i­or of the apse is part of the on­go­ing as­sess­ment, rather than act­ive re­pair work. The dance-floor scaf­fold above the west bal­cony, Hullinger ex­plained, “rep­res­ents the very first phase of a pro­ject to fully in­spect and re­pair the in­teri­or vault­ing.” The in­teri­or res­tor­a­tion ef­forts are ex­pec­ted to take as long as 18 months.

Ac­cord­ing to Hullinger, the es­tim­ated cost of re­pair­ing the dam­age now totals $26 mil­lion, of which $10 mil­lion has been raised. This sum in­cludes a $5 mil­lion grant from the Lilly En­dow­ment, as well as $100,000 from Part­ners in Pre­ser­va­tion through a con­test sponsored by the Na­tion­al Trust for His­tor­ic Pre­ser­va­tion and fun­ded by Amer­ic­an Ex­press.

In ad­di­tion to the dam­age caused by the earth­quake, Hullinger em­phas­ized that $36 mil­lion in fa­cil­it­ies work re­mains in the cathed­ral and oth­er build­ings on the grounds. “Pre­ser­va­tion is an on­go­ing and seem­ingly nev­er-end­ing pro­cess,” he noted. To date, the cathed­ral has spent ap­prox­im­ately $3 mil­lion, or 12 per­cent of the ex­pec­ted total, on the res­tor­a­tion ef­forts.

Head ma­son Joe Alonso ex­plained that the cathed­ral’s roof “rattled” dur­ing the quake, scat­ter­ing “debris fields” of bits of stone and mor­tar on the floor of the nave and else­where.

While the ceil­ing was deemed struc­tur­ally sound, net­ting was strung along the length of the nave to pre­vent ad­di­tion­al ma­ter­i­al from fall­ing. In the com­ing weeks and months, en­gin­eers will as­sess the ex­tent of the dam­age to the in­teri­or of the nave, and stone­ma­sons will be­gin the ne­ces­sary re­pairs, from tuck-point­ing to the pos­sible re­place­ment of any severely dam­aged stone. While the plat­form is in place, work­ers can also clean the stained-glass win­dows and ad­dress cos­met­ic is­sues such as stain­ing of the stone due to pri­or roof leaks.

Com­mu­nic­a­tions Dir­ect­or Richard Wein­berg al­luded to the fact that the earth­quake dam­age has di­ver­ted at­ten­tion from the cathed­ral’s “ef­forts to ad­vance the cause of justice, equal­ity, and civil rights.” He con­tin­ued, “The soon­er we can re­store the cathed­ral’s earth­quake dam­age, the soon­er we’ll be able to provide the space for big dreams and im­port­ant dia­logue we’re known for — without dis­trac­tions.”

The cathed­ral, which serves as “the spir­itu­al home for the na­tion,” is of­fi­cially known as the Cathed­ral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the prin­cip­al church in the Epis­copal Dio­cese of Wash­ing­ton. In its broad­er role, the cathed­ral will be tak­ing part in a num­ber of events next week com­mem­or­at­ing the 50th an­niversary of the March on Wash­ing­ton.

What We're Following See More »
DONATING TO FOOD BANKS
Government Buying $20 Million in Cheese
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Thanks to competition from Europe, America's cheese stockpiles are at a 30-year high. Enter the U.S. government, which announced it's buying 11 million pounds of the stuff (about $20 million). The cheese will be donated to food banks.

Source:
BRIEFER THAN TRUMP’S?
Clinton to Receive Classified Briefing on Saturday
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS
FHFA RULES APPLY
Judge: Freddie Mac Doesn’t Have to Open Its Books
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Freddie Mac shareholders cannot force the mortgage finance company to allow them to inspect its records, a federal court ruled Tuesday." A shareholder had asked the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to allow him to inspect its books and records, as Virginia law allows him to do. "The court held that Freddie shareholders no longer possess a right to inspect the company’s records because those rights had been transferred to the Federal Housing Finance Agency when the company entered into conservatorship in 2008."

Source:
MANY BEING TRADED ON BLACK MARKET
Pentagon Can’t Account for 750k Guns Provided to Iraq, Afghanistan
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The Pentagon has "provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns." Trouble is, it can only account for about 700,000 of those guns. The rest are part of a vast arms trading network in the Middle East. "Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses."

Source:
SINCE JANUARY
Baltimore Is Spying on Its Residents from the Air
8 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"Since the beginning of the year, the Baltimore Police Department" has been using a Cessna airplane armed with sophisticated camera equipment "to investigate all sorts of crimes, from property thefts to shootings." The public hasn't been notified about the system, funded by a private citizen.

Source:
×