St. Mary’s Church Renovations

The historic St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Mt. Angel, Oregon was dedicated in 1912. The 50’ tall steeple that was perched above the bell tower was constructed from wood and the heavy timbers that formed the main outside supports were lap-jointed and bolted together to achieve the required length.

Water spotting on the ceiling was discovered during the Fall of 2010 by church members but it wasn’t until a severe Oregon rain storm during the following winter that the water damage grew enough to cause plaster to fall from the ornate ceiling.

Realizing that something had to be done, the Church turned to Schommer & Sons Construction of Portland to perform a thorough inspection and make repair recommendations. Schommer’s initial inspection showed that water was leaking into the structure through several places including openings in the steeple’s copper sheathing which resulted in significant decay to the steeple’s timber framework.

Schommer & Sons then employed the services of Conley Engineering, Inc. who concurred with Schommer’s initial inspection and designed the needed structural repairs.

In front of a large gathering of interested community members, the steeple was cut loose from its support beams and lowered to the ground with a crane. It was first believed that the steeple could be repaired but after a more thorough inspection the decision was made to replace the steeple due to the extent of the damage and the cost of repairs.

Western Wood Structures was then hired to design, fabricate, and deliver a new steeple. The Heavy Timber steeple, which measures 50’ in length and just over 12’ across at the base, was fabricated and assembled in our shop. It was constructed of full length Glulam ribs, 4 x 6 struts, and 1-1/8” T & G plywood and trucked to the site on a special “stretch double drop deck” trailer.

Schommer & Sons completed the attachment of the ice and water shield and the installation of the copper cladding in the church parking lot and safely set the new steeple back into place in early October, 2011.