Once the decision was made by the congregation to install a new organ in this historic and much beloved sanctuary, placing it in the rear meant significant changes would be required. This project then allowed extensive repair and rehabilitation to occur.
We were challenged to provide a full renovation of the HVAC, lighting, floor, and fire alarm systems, review the structural system for any needed repairs, and strengthen and enhance the acoustical properties of the space while providing an ‘interiors’ facelift. We also needed to provide a new, code compliant accessible entrance
We had one goal– to accomplish it all with no significant change being seen by the parishioner.
Little did we know the challenges ahead. The ideal HVAC system was significantly larger and more complex than the space available, so the floor was removed and crawl space further excavated to provide space, and a continuous baseboard ‘slot diffuser’ devised. The result is an almost silent, draft free system. Lighting mock ups were made to test the architect designed fixture revisions and carefully ‘hidden’ spotlights. The structural components of floor, walls and ceiling were all examined and corrections made to each. In removing the old organ, a new arched wall ‘chapel’ area was created to reflect the original –across the apse.
Acoustical issues were complex. The nearly 120 year old ceiling was thin, brittle and flexible– yet needed to be the opposite. 1/3 of the ceiling was removed, and replaced with custom milled similar species wood 4 times thicker and reinforced to increase reflectivity in the lower sound range. Painstakingly stained and trimmed out to match the existing resulted in an invisible replacement. A cementitious material was trowelled on part of the remaining ceiling to complete the enhancement. Walls were stripped of plaster and wood lath to be replaced with solid, thick plaster. Directly behind the new organ, inside the case, the masonry was exposed for maximum reflectivity.
Stone, masonry, gutter and roof repairs were made on the exterior. The new entrance modified the old carriage entrance to provide safe passage, and made use of the old chapel screen in repairing the previously built stained glass wall.
- Much of St. Peter’s retains its 1892 character and materials, and all of our work was to stay within that character as much as possible while providing for the functional needs of the 21st century and to care for the organ being placed inside.
- Extensive research on the existing assembly, and appropriate materials, was conducted. For example, the existing subfloor (which had to be fully removed) were 1″ x 12″ T&G boards – so material was milled to match.
- The ceiling alone is a textbook case, where the face width, wood grain pattern, and its ability to conform to the same radius as the existing were critical – yet it had to be four times thicker and more dense than the original – with ribs spaced at twenty-four inches on center for additional rigidity to supply needed acoustical properties.
- Six existing stained glass panels facing Tryon St. in memory of a lost child told a biblical story when read from the interior. These would be forever covered by the organ case – so they were removed, flipped and placed in order – and lit from the interior to create greater visibility from the exterior, preserving a visible legacy of St. Peter’s