St. Michael's Cathedral's tower presented the biggest challenge to the exterior restoration project. Wherever possible, elements were conserved but most masonry had to be replaced with newly placed stones. Photo by Michael Swan

Leaving no stone unturned

By  Bill Steinburg, Catholic Register Special
  • September 22, 2016

For the masons and stoneworkers at St. Michael’s Cathedral, finishing the job on time meant putting noses to the grindstone by applying grinders to the sandstone.

“It’s one of those projects that grows dear to your heart,” said Sam Triglia, president and CEO of Clifford Restoration. “Every person on the job is very, very invested in the project.”

The stone repair began at St. Michael’s in 2011 and it involved repairing and cleaning masonry that dates to the 1840s and restoring as much of the exterior stone as possible. It was a huge project. Clifford Restoration worked alongside stoneworkers from Traditional Cut Stone to install new stone pinnacles, finials, cornices, balustrades and niches, plus new steel and concrete support structures.

To match the original 19th-century construction, replacement bricks had to be imported from England.

“They are handmade bricks,” said Triglia, explaining that this type of brick making is a lost art in Canada. “In England, we have a source where they still produce them the same way they used to.”

The cathedral tower presented the biggest challenge. Whenever possible, elements were conserved but most masonry had to be replaced with newly placed stone.

Lawrence Voaides, president of Traditional Cut Stone, used some 25 stoneworkers to sculpt exterior elements to match the original ornamentation on the cathedral. Working with Ohio Sandstone, and using the latest technology to ensure durability, his craftspeople recreated several elaborate sculpted elements.

Voaides considers his craft still relatively new in Canada, compared to Europe, where restoration of centuries-old stone buildings is common and well understood. Triglia and Voaides both consider St. Michael’s Cathedral a legacy project in their careers, one in which they take great pride.

“It’s as if all the skills I gained in masonry over the years was for this,” said Triglia.

“The cathedral stood well for 150 years. I hope my small contribution in this will mean no one will have to do any work on it for another 150 years.”

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