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Historic Church Faces Earthquake Repairs

By P.L. Wolff

Accompanying images can be viewed in the current issue PDF

Although nothing appeared amiss on the outside of Thomas Circle’s grand National City Christian Church following the August 23, 2011 earthquake, within all was not well. The front section of the soaring John Russell Pope-designed sanctuary and the pipe organ sustained significant damage. Before the $150,000 cost of restoration can begin, the funds must be raised; an on-going effort is underway at this time.

In addition to a section of the ornamental ceiling crumbling over the pulpit leaving a three-foot-wide hole, Minister of Music Dr. Charles Miller told The InTowner that all four of the hand-molded plaster capitals atop the marble columns at the front of the nave “were crushed as the building bounced, sending a downpour of 15-pound plaster chunks and plaster dust on top of and into the organ pipes. About 500 [of the organ’s 7,100] pipes total were crushed or bent.” There is fear that this dust will settle down inside the pipes made of an amalgam of zinc, lead & tin and cause serious damage to the delicate electronics below that control air flow to the individual pipes.

 

In addition to replacement of the capitals and ceiling repair requiring floor-to-ceiling scaffolding, the restoration will of necessity involve the complex work of, as Dr. Miller further explained, “the removal, cleaning, and reinstallation of the front half of the pipe organ, cleaning of the organ chamber, and new organ pipes.