Staircase restoration project is finally capped off!

September 27, 2016 by

Workers use a Bobcat loader to carry one of the 1,300-pund capstones to the Motherhouse staircase this morning.

Workers use a Bobcat loader to carry one of the 1,300-pund capstones to the Motherhouse staircase this morning.

A photo from 1904 shows the Motherhouse staircase as it was originally designed.

A photo from 1904 shows the Motherhouse staircase as it was originally designed.

When the Nazareth  Motherhouse was completed in 1903, its majestic main entrance featured a two-tiered staircase that swept from the ground up to wooden double doors below a statue of St. Joseph. But at some point in the following decades, the “sweep” of the lower stairs was abruptly abbreviated; the first time the stairs needed to be replaced, the ends of the bottom six steps were removed, leaving a pillar on each side bare of its original stairs.

In August, a crew from Budreau Construction Co. returned the staircase to its original sweeping majesty, while also returning its architectural integrity. First, workers removed the first six-step concrete tier and then replaced it with stairs that wrap around like the original design.

No one remembers when or why the original limestone slab steps were replaced, but Greg Gallagher, facilities administrator for the Motherhouse, said they, like the now-replaced steps, were probably cracking and deteriorating. He believes they may not have had sufficient footing to keep them from sinking slightly into the ground.

As work began this morning, the two pillars at each side of the stairs are bare, showing where the steps had been cut off sometime in the past.

As work began Aug. 1, the two pillars at each side of the stairs are
bare, showing where the steps had been cut off sometime in the past.


That will not be the case with the new concrete steps, Gallagher said. As part of its work, Budreau sunk support braces to ensure a solid foundation, he explained.

The pillars on each side of the steps have also been repaired to return them to their original appearance, he said. Each is topped with a 1,300 pound limestone capstone that was lifted into place on Sept. 27.

One part of the renovation project that’s equally important but less visible was repairing and refacing the original limestone blocks that make up the walls on each side of the main staircase. Kip Budreau said 114 years of weather and water had damaged much of the original mortar and made the stones more porous and susceptible to further erosion.
So he removed old, broken and cracked mortar, and replaced it with new filler color-matched to the original, while also repairing and resealing the limestone surfaces as much as possible.

The entire project took about two months to complete.

Although now returned to their original design, the staircase will not return to its original function. The steps are steep and lack required handrails, so they can be dangerous at any time. And, since the main entrance faces north, the steps can be treacherous in winter. A new main entrance on the west side of the brick-and-limestone building was added a couple of decades ago, and the staircase and grand entrance are no longer used.

But they still need to be preserved, Gallagher said, as part of caring for the historic landmark. “This is just part of maintaining this building, and returning it to its original beauty wherever we can,” he said.

 

Terry Budreau, left, checks on the progress to remove the old concrete steps this morning at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

Mark Budreau, left, checks on the progress to remove the old concrete steps Aug. 2 at the Nazareth Motherhouse.

 

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Jason Simmons, left, and Steve Chartier adjust the metal form that will create the fifth concrete step, as work continues Friday, Aug. 19.

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By Aug. 29, the Budreau Construction crew had completed the steps and was working to replace the concrete sidewalk surrounding them. Another detail still in the process was replacing the cracked and broken pillar caps at the bottom of the upper stairway.

Comments

4 Responses to “Staircase restoration project is finally capped off!”

  1. Dr. Judith (Huerter) McKenzieRookey on October 30th, 2016 7:21 pm

    At the last big reunion we stood on those old steps and did notice the deterioration so this is a welcome improvement and I am glad you all are taking such good care of such a magnificent landmark which also stands for great days in many of our personal lives. Thank you all. Much love and continued prayers.

  2. Elizabeth Parks Fehrenbacher on October 3rd, 2016 12:27 pm

    Although I came four years after Betsy , I had the same reaction to the steps. The impressiveness of the building and the staircase remains with me today as I go about whatever is on the daily agenda. The Motherhouse brings back memories of wonderful friendships, the love and kindness of the sisters, the wonderful handmade meals from Sisters Maxine and Gilberta, and the summer picnics with the homemade root beer and ice cream in the root beer floats that were to die for. My thoughts often wander to the crisp Fall days working in the laundry on Mondays, afternoons off on Thursday to sit and talk out by the grotto. All wonderful memories in a wonderful environment.

  3. Betsy Gasperich-Miller on August 24th, 2016 9:53 am

    I stood in awe as I approached those historic steps in 1960 as I started my journey as an Aspirant of the Sisters of St. Joseph. I will never forget that night as we arrived from the train from Chicago on our way to Concordia. Always held close and dear to my heart, dear Sisters. Thank you for all in being a part of my journey…..in life and on to being a teacher…..my true calling in life! I would never have reached there without each of you ! Nazareth Motherhouse & Academy in Concordia, Kansas and all the Sisters and friends that are always a part of my life……. carried forever in my heart!

  4. Anne M. Reinert on August 19th, 2016 8:55 pm

    I am so looking forward to see the finished project. I enjoyed the step by step process as well.

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