our historic sanctuary was heavily damaged when a tree fell through the roof in august 2019. our worship services are currently being held in our fellowship hall.
Sanctuary Update #16 - March 30, 2020
The ceiling work is complete and it looks great! On Thursday March 26, Hatton Marbury, Brandon Miles, Morris Cracraft and I did an inspection with the contractor. (In all honesty, Hatton and Brandon were the only ones to go all the way to the top platform with the contractor; Morris and I stopped at the lower platform and watched to make sure the others did a good job of inspecting!) By the time you read this update, the small amount of painting on the trim material where the ceiling and wall come together will be finished. With four days of warm weather, with no rain, the roofing contractor is also finishing the final touches on the roof gutters. As reported earlier, the contractor will now remove the scaffolding and work will begin on the floor and walls. There is still too much work to be done to try to project a completion date, but we are certainly beginning to see a small bit of light at the other end of the tunnel!
For the Commission Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #15 - March 16, 2020
Everyone probably knows what it’s like to sit by and watch paint dry! That’s what we’re doing. The ceiling has been replaced and is in the process of being painted with three coats of paint. So... in the absence of anything of importance to report regarding the sanctuary restoration project, I have asked Landis Williams, of the church archives group, to write a brief report on an unanticipated encounter she recently had with a gentleman who has contributed some fascinating information concerning the historical significance of church facility. Here below is the report from Landis. "The bell in your tower, cast in 1835 by John Wilbank of Philadelphia, inscribed on his bells as 'J. Wilbank', is one of two known to exist in Alabama, the other bell being the bell of the Greensboro Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, Alabama - aka First Presbyterian Church-Greensboro. Wilbank bells are extremely rare - they are not often discovered in existing towers, or elsewhere, and fortunate indeed is the possessor of such a historic treasure. Bells cast by the J. Wilbank Bell Foundry are, in my view, worth whatever the bell-collector is willing to pay for them, yet are irreplaceable as historic artifacts, which means that they are 'invaluable', and especially when they are found in the same original location, possessing the same original fittings, mountings, assembly, and parts. Most importantly, in the case of John Wilbank being the bellmaker, history records him as being the man who saved the Liberty Bell (known then as the Old State House Bell) of the Pennsylvania State House - now known as Independence Hall. His action was rather reluctant in saving the bell: being commissioned to cast a new bell for the State House involved removing the existing bell from the tower and receiving a fee for the bell's removal, known as a 'drayage' fee, which Wilbank objected to as being insufficient, resulting in a lawsuit in which he was awarded the bell, but also instructed to loan it permanently to the City of Philadelphia - whereby, over time, it eventually became know as our nation's beloved 'Liberty Bell', and one of our most visible national icons."
Sanctuary Update #14 - March 2, 2020
Check out the photo of the ceiling! Most of the new ceiling panels are in place. The rather tedious work of milling the trim strips that will cover each of the seams is occurring daily on site. This is rather “dirty” work and we recommend that you don’t go in the sanctuary while they are working. All of the workmen are wearing masks to avoid breathing in the particles in the air. The electricians have all of the new LED can-lights installed. After painting is completed, probably during the third week of March, the final trim rings will be installed on the can-lights and the interior scaffolding can be removed. The contractor is also installing the metal cornice at the east side roof line as weather permits. Unfortunately, the weather has been a deterrent to progress during this last phase of the exterior work. The removal of the interior scaffolding will have a huge visual impact, and will also signal the beginning of the next major phase of work. That will include constructing the “false floor” in the front one third of the sanctuary and cleaning and refinishing the wood floors in the remaining two thirds. In other words, there is still a lot of work to be completed before our sanctuary will be restored. For the Commission Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #13 - February 17, 2020 Valentine's Day proved to be a good day for our sanctuary project! While I was enjoying the warmth and sunshine of south Florida, Dawn sent pictures of our acoustical ceiling material being delivered and unloaded in the west parking lot. With this delivery, the project will turn the proverbial corner and leave the “demolition” phase and enter the “restoration” phase.
The contractor has assured us his crews will begin installing the new ceiling bright and early Monday February 17. The electrical contractor will work along with this crew and install the new can-light fixtures. Painters will then put two coats of paint on the new panels (the prime coat has already been applied) of the same color used when the ceiling was painted about five years ago. When the ceiling work is complete, the scaffolding can be removed and work on the floor and walls will begin. Plaster repairs will be required on the interior of the east wall. Following the plaster and floor repair work, all of the walls will be cleaned and painted. Progress indeed! Sorry, but there is no estimated completion date yet, but if you are a regular reader, you’ll be among the first to know when a completion date is predicted! Stay tuned. For the Commission, Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #12 - February 3, 2020 Week 26 since the tree fell and significant progress is underway! The roofing contractor has installed all new shingles and the replacement metal cornice is being fabricated. In the next few days, we expect the exterior roof work to be essentially completed. After the order for the acoustical ceiling material was placed, the general contractor was informed that the amount that is needed in the size (4’x8’) and thickness (1”) was a “special order” and would be delivered on or about February 13. The electrical contractor has the new “can” light fixtures in hand and will begin installing them as the ceiling material is put in place. The HVAC contractor is reworking/replacing ductwork under the sanctuary floor and should have their work essentially completed in two to three weeks. And..., the best news yet..., it appears that we will be able to refinish the 1898 tongue-and-groove flooring. At this point, we are planning on replacing the three carpet aisle runners to complement our anticipated beautiful “new” wood floor. A major task ahead is the rebuilding of the front portion of the floor to eliminate the side to center slope that was revealed when the asbestos tile was removed. The Commission members have begun to investigate and address some of the finish items that will be required such as replacing and cleaning seat cushions and replacing speakers. While we are encouraged by the recent progress, we still have considerable work to get done to reach the finish line. For the Commission Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #11 - January 20, 2020
The weatherman has not been very helpful over the past two weeks as the roofing contractor is now even further behind with his work. We remain near the top of his list but ours is a big job that requires a prediction of several days without rain. Fortunately, the temporary roofing has held up well over these past several months and we have not had any water intrusion despite the excessive rainfall we have experienced recently. The delay in the roofing part of the project will not create any delays in the other aspects of the project, just an added frustration! The acoustical ceiling material has been ordered and should be arriving by the end of the week. The contractor has assured us that he will put the manpower on the installation to get it done quickly. That will enable electricians, painters and others to get their “high work” done and that will permit the removal of the scaffolding that covers the entire sanctuary. A wood floor expert has visited the sanctuary to evaluate the flooring that was exposed with the removal of the asbestos shingles. That flooring was installed as part of the 1898 addition/renovation to the sanctuary. If possible, we would like to consider having that floor refinished rather than covering it up again with some other material. Carpet will be placed at the back of the sanctuary and down the aisles as before. I appreciate all of the kind comments related to the sanctuary updates. If there are questions or things that we should be thinking about, please don’t hesitate to stop me in church of send an email. One answer we don’t have yet is a date when we will be holding services in the sanctuary, but I can assure you we are all working to that end! For the Commission, Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #10 - January 6, 2020
Working with contractor on the restoration project is like taking a history course on The First Presbyterian Church of Florence. Two weeks ago, the removal of the asbestos tile revealed the original sloped floor and the changes that were made to the chancel during the 1957 renovation. (See update #9) This week the removal of the ceiling material revealed the charred timbers from the roof fire in 1928. (see picture) along with the steel roof structure that we have been unable, thus far, to accurately date. While the timbers are structurally as sound today as the day they were installed, the charred exterior was quite interesting and surprising to this observer. The contractor is still trying to identify replacement ceiling material that will maintain the acoustical conditions we have enjoyed. The roofing contractor is ready to begin stripping the old shingles from the roof and reroofing the entire building as soon as weather permits. The general contractor will have a flooring contractor evaluate the floors this week and develop a recommended approach. In the good news department, the piano technician hired by the insurance adjuster determined that the piano is a total loss, for insurance purposes, and Mrs. Rockhill will begin looking for a replacement. While it is still much too early to try to project a completion date, it is encouraging to know that the demolition phase is essentially completed and we are moving to the rebuilding stage.
For the Commission Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #9 - December 23, 2019 If I had to add a title to this update it would have to be “The Christmas Surprise!”. The removal of the asbestos tile revealed a “heart pine” tongue and groove floor with a compound curvature in the front one third of the sanctuary. Not only does the earlier sanctuary floor slope from back to front, the front one third slopes from the side walls to the middle. In addition, a large hole was revealed (see picture) that was covered by a curved “stage” in an earlier layout of the sanctuary. A picture showing this configuration hangs in the hallway behind the sanctuary, thanks to the Archive Committee’s bicentennial project. (See the picture with Dr. Hollingsworth standing in the pulpit.) The floor we could see in the front one third of the sanctuary was a raised structure that covered the “hole” and concealed the side to center slopes. This “reveal” has added additional complexity to the restoration process as well as providing some additional options that will be investigated and considered. The brickwork repair on the east wall has been completed, asbestos removed and interior scaffolding is being erected. When the interior scaffolding is completed, roof stabilization work will continue and the remainder of the ceiling material will be removed. The chandeliers will be removed, cleaned and stored and additional temporary lighting will be installed. The contractor anticipates the roofing contractor will begin installing new shingles in the first week of the new year and soon thereafter the exterior roof work will be completed! For those who are not counting, December 25 will begin the 20th week since the tree fell! For the Commission Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #8 - December 9, 2019 Progress is slow but sure! The roof has been shored-up on the southeast corner and the brick masons have removed the damaged brick and mortar and have started rebuilding the upper section of the east wall. This week the asbestos mitigation contractor will begin removing the tile floor. The project manager estimates that this will take approximately one week to complete removal of the tile and subflooring and get a “clean air report”. The tile work will require the removal of the temporary scaffolding on the interior of the sanctuary. Hopefully, the brick work can continue (weather permitting) using the exterior scaffolding. When the brick work is completed, the roof structure and decking can be completed and the roofing contractor can begin installing new shingles over the entire sanctuary. Once the “clean air report” has been received, substantial interior scaffolding will be installed and the contractor can begin removing the remainder of the ceiling and the damaged light fixtures. Replacement ceiling material has been identified and submitted to the insurance adjuster for approval. Also, a source for replacing the exterior metal cornice work has been identified and the bid for that work has been submitted to the adjuster. There are several different players and a lot of “moving parts” at this stage of the project that have to be coordinated and scheduled in proper sequence. The project manager, Darrell Quails, and the general contractor, Robbie King have been “on top of things”, easy to work with and have kept us informed of both progress and setbacks as they occur.
For the Commission, Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #7 - November 25, 2019
The increased activity on the restoration project has uncovered a new issue or two After the construction scaffolding was installed on the exterior of the sanctuary on the east side, the general contractor and the representative from the company doing the masonry work were able to get a close look at the condition of the roof and wall near the impact area. That inspection resulted in the conclusion that there had been some “movement” in the roof structure that must be corrected before masonry can begin. A horizontal crack in the brick wall that extends several feet to the north of the impact area of the tree was also discovered. In addition, they have determined that the soffit and trim work between the roof structure and brick wall are made of metal rather than wood as anticipated. This too will complicate the repair process. Additional ceiling material will soon be removed to examine a larger section of the interior roof structure. Close-up pictures have been taken and submitted to the building consultant and insurance adjuster along with a request for a budget adjustment. The remaining uncovered stained-glass windows will be boarded up this week along with the installation of some of the interior scaffolding. Removal of the floor tile is scheduled to begin early in December. In the good news section, a small group of volunteer members, led by Morris Cracraft, have completed the task of cleaning the Hymnals and pew Bibles, and that’s PROGRESS!
For the Commission, Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #6 - November 11, 2019
As I write this almost 13 weeks after the tree fell, I am somewhat disappointed that we have not accomplished more on our sanctuary restoration, but we have made progress and we anticipate the activity level to pick up this week. All of the asbestos and lead paint analysis reports have been received and the asbestos/lead issues are limited to the floor tile. That is the good news for this report. The bad/good news is that in our current economy, sub-contractors are busy working and we are having to wait in line to get crews in our sanctuary to go to work. This week the pews should be removed so that the floor tile can be removed. Then interior and exterior scaffolding will be installed and the brick masons, roofers and electricians can all start on their respective pieces of the project. Once the brick exterior wall and new roof are in place, the interior work can begin with little concern about weather conditions. In closing this report, I want to give you advanced notice that we will soon be trying to enlist volunteers to come in and clean the dust from the pew Bibles and Hymnals. It should be a fun project with lots of time to visit with one another.
For the Commission,
Sanctuary Update #5 - October 28, 2019 Despite the way things look, we are making progress. As the general contractor said this morning, “we are working on all of those things that go on behind the curtain”. He has had several conversations with the insurance adjuster regarding various approaches to solving a number of issues. To give you one example, in replacing the ceiling panels, we have a significant challenge in maintaining the wonderful acoustical characteristics of the sanctuary. The material used for all of the current ceiling panels is no longer manufactured or available. The general contractor has discussed various approaches with four different product manufacturers and then discussed the various options with the insurance adjuster. The options are ranked for “suitability” and “cost” and a “preferred approach” will be recommended to the “owner”. This represents just one of many product replacement decisions that will have to be made to complete the project. Each of these decisions will have budget/cost implications that must be negotiated/approved with the insurance adjuster, and to be fair, we have been quite pleased with his responses thus far. He seems to have a genuine interest in getting us restored. While it is probably not appropriate to use the expression “the devil is in the details” in reference to restoring a church sanctuary, the details are certainly important in maintaining both the “look” and the “character” of our sanctuary. On a positive final note, by the time you read this, the “trenches” in the side yard caused by the tree removal equipment will have been filled with sand and when we flower the cross next Easter, we will have a safe, level area for our members.
For the Commission Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #4 We had a very productive meeting on Wednesday October 9. At that meeting we engaged Robbie King, President of King and Associates General Contractors, Inc. with a handshake agreement to be our general contractor. Others in attendance at the meeting, in addition to those representing the church, included the General Adjuster from Liberty Mutual, his building consultant from Grecco Construction Consultants and representatives of the major sub-contractors to be hired by the general contractor. We hope to have a contract with the general contractor and budget agreement between adjuster and the general contractor in about two weeks. Work on the brick exterior and the roof could also be started in that same time frame. The objective is to get the outside construction work completed before we experience “significant winter weather”. While the exterior work is going on, interior work will consist of removing, cleaning and storing the pews, removal of the tile flooring and further clean-up. There is a small amount of asbestos in the floor tile that will require special procedures in the removal. The pendant lights and wall sconces will be removed, cleaned and stored and temporary lighting will be installed. Additional testing for asbestos and lead will be done on some of the trim pieces on the walls. Exterior and interior scaffolding will be erected as needed. Because there are still some significant unknowns surrounding the damaged brick wall and roof structure, we are reluctant to try to predict a completion date, but there is general agreement that there is at least four months of work to be done. Hopefully, weather delays will be minimal. While we understand that church members are supportive and curious, as work begins, we will have to restrict access to the sanctuary for everyone’s safety. We will try to keep you up-to-date with pictures and future updates.
For the Commission, Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #3
By the time you receive this update, it will have been about six weeks since the tree fell on our sanctuary. Last week we received reports from the Building Consultant and the Contents Specialist and are reviewing those against our observed damage. We are still missing an assessment regarding asbestos but that is in process. Thus far the Adjuster and his consultants have recognized damages substantially in excess of $300,000. 00 with the understanding that there are several areas of potential damage that would not come to light until the actual restoration process begins. We have also had initial interviews with three potential General Contractors and are awaiting their reports containing preliminary estimates for repair work. These estimates are relatively complicated because they will involve several sub-contractors, all of whom need to come to the church to see the work area first hand. After receiving estimates, we will select a General Contractor and he will begin negotiation with the Adjuster to arrive at a preliminary settlement. The expertise of Vicki Gillis and Morris Cracraft in architecture, construction, maintenance and restoration have been invaluable in this process. Lee Hudkins and I try to make sure we are asking the “right questions” and are keeping everyone up-to-date on the various activities. We welcome your questions and observations.
For the Committee Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #2 The best news since the tree fell is that the 58-page report from the structural engineer indicates that there was no structural damage. There are some broken rafters that will need to be replaced and of course the decking that was punctured will have to be replaced, but the bottom line is that we came out about as well as we could have hoped for. Contrary to appearances, we are making progress on restoring our sanctuary. Champion Roofing has completely reworked the temporary roof enclosure after our unusual rain storm on August 25, and we believe we have a temporary fix that will keep water out until the permanent fix is completed. ServiceMaster has cleaned the choir loft and steps have been taken to protect the organ. We have begun to talk to potential contractors and invite them to come and see the scope of work. We anticipate we will receive reports from the Building Consultant, (re: interior conditions), contents specialist, (re: pews, piano, books, etc.) and the environmental assessment (re: asbestos, lead, etc.) in the next few days. These reports will give us and the insurance adjuster a comprehensive view of the project ahead. For the Committee Dick Peck
Sanctuary Update #1 The initial objective was to get the tree removed from the building and a protective cover installed on the roof. Secondly, a substantial amount of equipment was brought in to begin drying out the interior. All of this occurred by Friday 8/16. After an initial meeting with an insurance adjuster from Birmingham on Monday 8/19, the large claims insurance adjuster met with the committee on Thursday 8/22. He had a structural engineer, a building consultant and a contents specialist with him and they spent most of the day doing their assessment. In addition, an environmental assessment for asbestos and lead has been initiated. Reports from all of these consultants will be arriving over the next couple of weeks and then the insurance adjuster will issue a document outlining the scope of work and budget for the restoration. In the meantime, the committee will be trying to identify qualified contractors for possible engagement. The drying process will continue for several more days and plywood panels will be installed over the east side stained glass windows to protect them during the subsequent ceiling/roof work. A review of our insurance policy assured us that we are well insured and that after a $10,000.00 deductible, the remaining restoration costs will be covered. The insurance adjuster has been exceedingly helpful appears to be solidly committed to getting us restored as quickly as possible. For the Committee, Dick Peck
First Presbyterian Church of florence | 224 E Mobile Street, Florence, AL 35630 | 256-764-2081