Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis, King of France

Recrowning the Jewel of The French Quarter

Location: New Orleans, LA
Age/Built: Built 1789, Renovated 1851
Facade Repair and Attachment, Gruenstark (GS) Anchors, Services, Stabilization of Historic Structures, Testing and Analysis

Project Background:

  • 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 a major renovation in 1851, the cathedral’s original 1819 bell was incorporated into the new design

Challenges Presented:

  • One of St. Louis’ famous 3 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

Services and Solutions:

  • Masonry Solutions 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 multipronged approach
  • The first phase of the program called for pinning the separating pilasters back to the main structure
  • Masonry Solutions 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
  • Masonry Solutions 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
  • MSI techs, utilizing a low pressure injection system, 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