Monday, June 4, 2012

New Wrinkle . . .

Just kidding, really, but what do you call a new addition to the face of this Grand Old Lady who is soon to celebrate her 124th birthday?

Since sometime in the 1970's the exterior signs on the church building have been serviceable, but a bit incongruous with the historic facade of the building.  They were black metal boxes with a decorative panel at the top and lit on the inside at night.  
Until about 10 years ago, content was spelled out on a felt board inside the sign box with white plastic letters.  Content changes were, no doubt, tedious.  More recently content was displayed on a foam core board inside the sign box.

One of the projects planned for our Third Century renovation was improvement of outdoor signage.  That day has finally arrived.  New wooden signs are being installed on the building.  They are replicas of signs that were previously in use.  They will be mounted in the same position as the old metal sign boxes.

The first step in the installation was to remove the old signs.  MTS Contractors of Kansas City are the installers, attaching the signs directly to the exterior masonry.  We didn't know the condition of the bricks and mortar under the old signs.  On the north side it was fine.

The west side is in need of tuck pointing which will be done later this week, after which the west sign will be installed.

  Acme Sign in North Kansas City did a beautiful job on the design and its realization.  The hand-painted mahogany signs were stained to coordinate with the red brick building and the mahogany doors installed in 2009.  They include removable Lucite panels which will allow St. Mary's to display service times in different seasons of the year and times for special services.  The signs direct passers by to the church office on the south side of the building and to the parish Web site.

 The sign on the north side went up this morning and it looks great.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fire Cleanup is Underway

Service Master moved into the church on Tuesday afternoon and started odor abatement immediately. The nave, parish hall and basement have been full of fans and air cleaning machines for the last 36 hours.

Smoke contamination was worst in the basement restrooms which were part of our 2010 renovation. The repair contractors will assess their condition today and tomorrow and develop a plan for repairs.

The floor of the nave is vibrating with the force of half a dozen air filters. They force the air through a charcoal filter and impart hydrogen and oxygen molecules to the space. We're accustomed to having the nave smell like incense - right now it smells more like a new car.

As many of you know, St. Mary's is said to harbor at least one ghost. One wonders about his reaction to the continuous hum and vibration of his haunt since Tuesday evening.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fire at St. Mary's March 6

Yesterday, Tuesday, March 6, we had a fire at St. Mary's. A carelessly dropped cigarette set dry grass on fire near the building and the high winds fed the fire. It was discovered quickly and the KCFD was able to put it out soon after their arrival. No one was injured.

A small area of the south exterior wall is damaged. The inside of the exterior wall in the basement hallway has minor fire damage. The drywall has been removed because of exposure to water as the fire was brought under control. Much of the building was exposed to smoke. Fortunately the sacristy where vestments and linens are stored was unaffected by smoke. There was a light haze in the nave and more in the parish hall. The downstairs restrooms and west basement were most affected by smoke.

Odor abatement and cleanup of water began last night, a few hours after the fire was controlled. Damage assessment continues in the basement. The areas affected by the fire were included in the parish hall renovation project in the spring and summer of 2010 and the basement and 2nd floor renovation that was completed last spring. It's disheartening to be contemplating repairs on these areas so newly renovated. But the memory of their construction is fresh, and we have recent photos which have been helpful in assessing damage and smoke exposure and planning how it will be addresses.

A sad casualty of the fire was one of the building's original windows. It was fully enclosed between the interior and exterior walls, but happened to be in the path of the fire. It has been removed and stored, but the glass is broken and the frame is charred.

We're working out details of how our hunger relief outreach programs will operate this weekend. Details will be posted on the St. Mary's Facebook page and will be communicated via email to volunteers.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reprise and Up on the Roof

Almost exactly two years ago we started renovating the building of St. Mary's Episcopal Church.

The original construction of the building began in June 1886 and was completed two years later. The south side of the building, where the parish hall and kitchen are now located was finished first in 1887. Then the nave of the church and the side chapel in its northeast corner were built. So, depending on how you count it, the building is somewhere between 122 and 123 years old. In a building of that age, you're almost guaranteed that something needs work at all times. In 2009, a lot of things needed work. We're addressing them one project at a time.

Earlier posts detail our first project, the replacement of the exterior doors and doorsteps. It began in the spring of 2009 and was completed in November of that year. You can read about that work at

After a short break, the work on the parish hall and basement restrooms began. Our hazmat abatement crew moved in the day after Easter - April 5, 2010. They completed their work in a week and the construction crew followed immediately. They completed the parish hall at the end of July. About two weeks later, the work on the choir floor and altar began and continued for about a month.

More recently Holy Smoke has brought you the story of the work in progress on other areas of the parish hall and upstairs offices which started mid-December 2010. Simply stated, during the past 24 months, there have been only about 12 weeks when some kind of renovation work was not in progress on our beautiful, old building.

Today, we shift our attention to the chapel roof which is being replaced as this is written.

The chapel is at the northeast corner of the church building. The nave of the church has a pitched roof, but the parish hall and chapel have flat roofs. Until the winter just past, both of them produced picturesque indoor waterfalls every time we got a hard rain or snow melt. Last summer, the parish hall roof was replaced and we had a worry-free winter in that space.

The chapel remained leaky. And on a warm day after a snow, there's a deluge in the closet at the corner of the sacristy. That began to change last week as a new roof began to go on. This is what it looked like from afar on Wednesday, March 30. Unfortunately, the only route to the roof is up a two-story ladder, up which Holy Smoke is, sadly, not permitted to waft.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Second Floor Office After

You've seen and read about the 2nd floor office space before the renovation. Now for the "after" pictures.

The renovated space has a comfortable, attractive parlor for small social gatherings and meetings. The fireplace supplements the new heat pump which efficiently and economically warms and cools the space. Pishny Contracting skillfully restored the stained glass windows in the parlor area.

A small conference room was created between the parlor and the inner office.

The office space is now beautifully furnished with efficient storage and workable accommodation of office machinery. The addition of a wireless printer will complete the equipment.

The old rest room was artfully reworked to accommodate a "kitchenette" with refrigerator and microwave. The space has accommodated a Vestry meeting, several committee meetings and other small gatherings since it was completed four weeks ago.

Our thanks to Dr. Michael Frost and the crew of MDF Properties for this amazing transformation.

Second Floor Office Before

In 2005 a gift was made for the renovation of the administrative office of St. Mary's. The Brougham-Cave office building is a small separate building on the church grounds between the east and south parking lots. This tiny building is about 20 years "newer" than the church building itself. Its restoration provided a comfortable and efficient work space for our accounting and other administrative functions and Downtown Outreach.

An office for the Rector was located on the second floor of the Parish Hall. This space was originally built in 1888 as a residence for the priest in charge of the parish. Rectors of St. Mary's lived there from 1888 until 1951.

It was an interesting space with original pine floors and the same decorative mill work around windows and doors as in the nave and parish hall and stained glass windows. The original fireplace is still there along with the electric heating unit that replaced it.

But its 19th century design and construction were not meant for 21st or even 20th century office machinery. Wireless internet solved one problem. But retrofitted phone jacks and electrical outlets dictated the position of furniture or resulted in in wires running across the floor.

The stained glass windows looking out to the west were badly deteriorated. The wooden frames had rotted and the lead holding the decorative panes together had deteriorated. The loose panes let in the outside air, making the rooms very uncomfortable in the winter months. The back door, leading out on to the parish hall roof provided "climate control" in the summer. It also admitted wasps, birds and other creatures to the interior office space. The floor boards had roughened over the years making them difficult to keep clean.

Although Rectors have made use of the office as a work space, it was not suitable for meetings, pastoral counseling sessions and other common uses. That changed in December 2010 with a gift from Dr. Michael Frost and the efforts of the MDF Properties renovation crew.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Basement Clean-up

The first step toward transforming the basement of the parish hall into usable space was to clear out the junk. After 123 years, a building can accumulate some interesting things and St. Mary's was no exception.

Our renovation crew began by separating the stuff we would keep from the stuff that would go away. That took about three days. The keepers were put in storage, some things were given away and the remainder was recycled or trashed.

That left a clean, empty space to start work. Our renovation last fall had included extensive work on downstairs plumbing, fire protection and security apparatus. The work this winter was about making the space functional and attractive.

A new ceiling and lighting were first on the list. The room has a southern exposure that provides wonderful natural light that is not too harsh. Fresh, clean ceiling tiles and new light fixtures brightened the space further.

Storage is a perennial problem in this old building. We have a lot more "stuff" than the 1886 design of our building anticipated. An entire wall of cabinets gave would us a tidy solution to the problem of where to put it.

Here are pictures of these "works in progress."