Building Committee Responses to Questions and Comments

On this page we will list all the questions and comments received regarding the Bell Tower and the Building Committee responses.

Question/Comment Received:

I was so disappointed when I saw the architectural rendering of what the “tower project “ was going to look like when finished. With building advances and modern materials I thought that we could do better than that.

How many architects actually submitted plans for the reconstruction? Did any of them have past experience in church design?

If more money could be raised why can’t there be a better design? Changing the character of the church is sad, especially since so much effort was put into restoring the front of the church with the round stained glass window.

We restored a 1850 house three years ago with its original 170 year old slate roof. It was leaking badly where all of the angles were coming together. Slate roofers came in and redid all of the angles and tightened up a few loose slates. It is good for another hundred years or so. Have any experts been called to see if the church roof can be repaired and saved?

I know this tower has been discussed by the vestry for a few years and it has been frustrating at times. I feel sad to be so critical. But I have to be honest about my disappointment in the design.

Response by Building Committee Members:

The original architect/engineering firm, Building Envelope Specialists (BES), has significant expertise, was recommended by the Diocese, has led repair efforts on several Maine churches, as well as libraries, university and municipal buildings.  For example, BES had recently led a major renovation of St. Luke’s in Portland.  We had two firms submit proposals (BES and the combination of Campbell and Cordja).  Based on our exploration, having more firms submit proposals would increase cost at diminishing return.

The Building & Grounds Committee started this effort with all intentions of repairing/restoring the Bell Tower to its original form.  It was only after we discovered the level of decay/deterioration, uncovered the history of challenges with design and explored utilizing other materials did the Committee conclude an alternative approach may be in order. The recommended alternative would have minimal impact on the interior of the Church.

In our research we discovered the Bell Tower was an afterthought as well. The original Sacristy was moved to the rear of the Church building and the Bell Tower subsequently erected.  Hence, the ineffective cricket connecting the tower to the main Church building, the odd roof valleys over the flower room, which collect snow and ice, and the downward slope of the floor from Sanctuary to the Wood Street entrance.  This slope was required to assure the ”Te Deum Laudamus” stain-glass window was not blocked by the relocated Sacristy roof.

Anecdotally, we have heard the Bell Tower has been a source of frustration and water seepage going as far back as the ‘50s.  Further, based on the engineering inspection reports, the greatest areas of decay in the stonework are those sections directly exposed to the elements (i.e., the East Elevation Wall and Bell Tower).  The remaining stonework which lies under a pitched roof requires minimal repair.  The stone, rubble and laith construction of the walls is designed to let water in and wick out.  However, while this design works effectively in more temperate climates, the repeated freeze thaw of Maine winters can cause significant damage to the stonework, and therefore, require constant care and maintenance.

Regarding the roof, the engineering inspection indicated the quality of the original slate roof tiles was inferior and recommended replacing with higher quality slate tiles rather than attempting to repair.  The engineers indicated that during the time period the Church was built, many New England buildings used these inferior quality slate tiles to save cost and have been required to replace them.  The recommendation to utilize asphalt tile was not principally due to cost, but to best position St. Thomas’, should advances in solar power roofing materials develop, which make it both cost effective and aesthetically pleasing to replace the roof with a clean energy alternative.

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