Friday, November 10, 2006

Electrical Work

The lamps (the bulbs) in the lighting fixtures in the Cathedral are new. We have had some difficulty in finding replacement lamps when old ones burned out because they are no longer commonly made. The new lamps are standard sized, inexpensive, and plentiful.

The Cathedral lighting is only one part of a larger project to bring the electrical wiring up to current code. Much of the wiring in the Cathedral and the Cathedral basement has been replaced during past renovations. For example, the not-so-recent renovations of the Auditorium and the room we used to call the "panel room" (now the Halpine Room) probably included new wiring. The 1984 installation of the new pipe organ required new wiring to the choir loft.

The Rectory's wiring is older. Electricians cut power to the Rector last Wednesday to examine the state of the wiring. It was a dark and quiet day! The electricians said that much of the wiring and many breaker boxes will be replaced. I expect a few weekdays without power in the next few months. [When the power to the Rectory is cut, the phones stop working. If you try to call and get no answer after several rings, the power is probably out.]

This photo shows current work in the space above the Halpine Room. I am no expert, but I believe that the large pipe is part of the fire suppression system. The smaller conduits are for the electrical system.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Vestibules: Before and After

Here are two "Before and After" photos showing the change in our vestibule. Actually, the top photo is the vestibule south of the main entrance to the Cathedral. The lower photo is the renovated vestibule north of the main doors. Notice how the choice of paint complements the stained glass. The new paint draws more attention to the details of our beautiful windows.

Friday, November 03, 2006

'Tis Done (for now)

This first phase of the Cathedral's renovation is complete!

The enlarged restroom is finished. The sink and mirror are in place. The restroom is handicapped-accessible and family friendly. When you come to Mass this weekend, be sure to take a peek at the beautiful woodwork and the great tilework (design courtesy of our talented Associate Pastor, Fr. Matt).

Let's recap the work done in this first Phase of the Renovation:
  1. Decaying wood in the upper church has been replaced by new wood and metal bracing.
  2. The previous sound system's speakers and the "gondola" that held them have been removed from the ceiling.
  3. New braces reinforce the roof, eliminating any swaying and creaking in the upper church due to high winds during Oklahoma's lengthy storm season.
  4. A new fire suppression system protects the entire Cathedral from fire danger.
  5. The air conditioning ducts have been re-routed so that we will enjoy cool air in the Summer, but we won't have to look at unsightly air vents.
  6. The men's restroom has been expanded to accommodate wheelchair-bound parishioners and guests.
  7. The cathedra, the Bishop's chair, sits at the side of the sanctuary, near its original position where it was in 1914.
  8. Most important to Catholics, the Blessed Sacrament is now reserved in the central high altar.
As an added bonus, the vestibule outside the new restroom is painted in new colors. The original tile floor has been restored. These new wall colors are a sneak peak of what the entire interior of the Cathedral might look like as the Renovation continues.

Work will continue! We are currently searching for a better lift chair to assist our parishioners who have difficulty climbing stairs.

Check back here often. Soon, you'll see new posts describing in detail the future Phases of the Renovation. The next Phases will include a new copper roof, restored spires, a greatly improved sound system, a repainted Cathedral interior, and the restoration of our beautiful statues, altars, and Stations of the Cross.

Please remember the Cathedral in your prayers.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Sanctuary Rug

Last summer, we knew that the installation of the fire suppression system would shake a lot of plaster loose from the vaults. We did not want that plaster to land on the beautiful rug in the sanctuary where it would be ground into the rug as people walked on it.

We sent it off to be cleaned and to have the fringe restored. The rug has been back for several, several weeks. I was taking some photos of it this afternoon and thought that I'd share them.

As always click on the photos for larger versions.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Shiny New Porcelain & Brass

Today saw three moments of major progress!

1. The fire suppression system, long complete in the Cathedral, has now been finished in the Sacristy Attic. Click on the image for a larger version. The sprinkler pipes hang from the rafters and have red elbows.

This is the area upstairs from the Sacristy, the Choir Room, and the hallway that connects them. [And, yes, this is where we store the artificial Christmas trees.]

2. Wood-workers stained all wood in the two smaller entrances at the front (East) side of the Cathedral. This includes the doors and the wood trim. It looks very fresh. [No photo]

3. The fixtures for the newly expanded restroom have finally arrived. Installation is going rather quickly. The handicapped-accessible sink has yet to be taken out of its box, but the toilet, seat, rail, toilet paper holder, and waste paper box are all in place.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Sigh! Waiting for the fixtures...

Our little restroom in the vestibule of the Cathedral is much larger than it was; however, it's still empty!

I am told that the fixtures should be here in a couple of weeks. It probably will not take long to install everything.

For now, all we can do is admire the paint, the wall tiles, and the floor tiles. If you like it, please tell Fr. Matt that you like his choices. He did a great job.

Shameless Advertisement: The Cathedral has launched a podcast called Today's Young Catholics. It features Catholics in their 20s and 30s discussing how current Catholic news impacts their lives. The latest podcast is an interview with seminarian Brian O'Brien.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Church Fire Suppression System is done!

The large hydraulic basket lift, affectionately known as "our blue friend," is back in the middle of the Cathedral! It will complete the fire suppression system.

Workers are placing a small cover over each hole in the ceiling. The covers hide the sprinkler heads. If the system detects a fire in the Cathedral, the small covers will fall from the ceiling as the sprinkler heads lower and begin spraying water.

The lift will be removed for this weekend's Masses.

Update: The work is complete. Unless you are carefully looking for the covers, they are not visible.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Final Touches: The (nearly) Finished Vestibule

The vestibule is nearly finished. The wood is freshly stained. The paint is dry. It looks great.

The vestibule's tile floor is in the process of being cleaned. It has been a long and laboreous process scraping the carpet glue off. You can see from the photo below how vivid the colors are.

The only remaining project in the vestibule is the completion of the handicapped-accessible restroom. It is ironic that the restroom's expansion was the primary reason for the vestibule's renovation. The fixtures for the restroom are due on October 1 and will be installed quickly.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New Color Palate revealed

If you've been wondering what the Cathedral will look like when it is painted, you can see a "sneak peek" in the vestibule. The lower portion of the wall remains the same green. The only difference is that it is new paint! The upper wall is a cream color that complements the stained glass windows.

As we removed the carpet, we were surprised to discover that the original tile floor is still there. It is covered in carpet glue and therefore very sticky and discolored. We are working to remove the glue to see if we can restore the tile floor to its original beauty.

[Click on the photos for larger versions.]

The vestibule is not open yet. I do not recommend that you enter the vestibule because the floor is still quite sticky with carpet glue.

Lighting Controllers installed

The new controllers for the lighting in the Cathedral are here. The electrical and lighting contractors have already installed over five miles of copper wire to replace the existing wire, some of which dates back to the 1940s.

This new lighting system will give much more control over the way the Cathedral is lit. The current brass light fixtures will remain in the church, but the lamps - the light bulbs - will be replaced with ones that will provide a more natural light.

The end result is that the paint colors and the stained glass will look more vivid and beautiful.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Video Update: Monsignor Gier

Monsignor Gregory A. Gier, Rector, comments on the Restoration of the Cathedral so far.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Now on iTunes....

If you wish to listen to the audio from the Renovation Update videos, visit the following web site to subscribe via iTunes: Cathedral Media on iTunes. The iTunes series will soon include a podcast about young Catholics.

We will have another Renovation Update posted soon. Msgr. Gier is going to talk about the renovation.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Photos in September Newsletter

The Cathedral News, the monthly parish newsletter, is printing right now.

Msgr. Gier mentioned the renovation in his monthly column:

Our work in the Cathedral has continued at a slow pace due to the high temperatures in the attic of the Cathedral. However the sprinkler system is close to finished and Father La Chance approved the colors for the new restroom today (August 29, 2006).

Page 6 features "Before and After" photos of completed work.

We are starting to gather information on acoustic engineering firms and sound system installers. The goal is to have the Cathedral analyzed for its acoustic properties, and then to have a sound system designed to maximize clarity. Any developments will be posted on this blog.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Shocking Development

The Cathedral was struck by lightning this week. It is not the first time, nor will it be the last. Our 251' tall central tower attracts lightning from time to time.

Last Monday, the lightning strike damaged some computer equipment and the mixer in the Cathedral's sound system. The damage certainly could have been worse. The Cathedral's steel superstructure is helpful in directing the electricity into the ground. Sometimes, we see no damage from lighning strikes. This time lightning may have struck a different part of the building, causing the damage. We will probably never know.

I replaced the Cathedral's burned-out mixer with one that we use for school and RE plays. Although the sound is not ideal - and it never was ideal - , it is better than nothing. This is a temporary fix. I will be replacing the mixer with a permanent one in a few weeks.

While I was working, I rewired the signal path so that I now have much more control over the sound in the transepts. Msgr. Gier commented that he thinks speech is more intelligible in both the nave and the transepts. The true test will come this weekend. Sound behaves differently when the Cathedral is full of people.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Video Update: August 20, 2006

This is the Renovation Update for the week of August 20, 2006.

This update covers the structural repairs up in the towers.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Video Update: August 13, 2006

This is the Renovation Update for the week of August 13, 2006.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Laying the Tiles

Our very talented team of tile-layers are measuring, cutting, and placing the bathroom tiles. Fr. Matt La Chance, associate pastor and former architect, designed the tile pattern.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Video Update: August 6, 2006

Here is a video update of the most recent work in the Cathedral.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Old Air Ducts have "Disappeared"

[Click on the photo for a larger version.]

The drywallers have finished painting the walls. Fr. Matt La Chance did an excellent job of overseeing the choice of paint. When dry, the paint is a perfect match for the existing walls.

It is as if the old, rectangular ducts have "disappeared."

The drywall and paint work is done in the south side of the Nave and all along the Apse and Transepts. The only work that remains is the duct work, drywall and paint along the north side of the Nave.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sawdust, Sawdust Everywhere

Three separate crews are working on projects today.

1. Two carpenders are trimming out the stairs that lead from the northen front vestibule to the choir loft. They are using the front steps of the Cathedral as a place to cut the angled pieces of trim to finish the stairs.

2. The first Lift Chair is being installed. This chair is a replacement for the one that leads from the back parking loft to the pew level in the Cathedral. The other chair - the one that descends to the basement - will be installed later.

3. The holes left over from the original air conditioning system are being filled in with drywall and mud. The south side of the nave is complete. Workers will begin on the apse tommorrow. Once the air conditioning ducts are re-routed on the north side of the nave, the old holes will be filled in. The new drywall is unpainted, so it's not entirely pleasant to behold, yet! When the mud dries, it will be painted to match the rest of the walls.

Insensitively-placed Air Ducts

Air conditioning is a good thing. In the 1960s, a parish fund drive collected enough money to install A/C in the Cathedral. Back then, we were fortunate to have air conditioning, so perhaps no one thought much about where to place the ducts.

Our excellent architect, Professor Thomas Gordon Smith, commented that our air conditioning ducts are "insensitively placed." He's right: the ducts could be hidden. He presented a great solution.

His suggestion was to keep the modern convenience of air conditioning, but to hide the ducts so that they don't distract from the beauty of the Cathedral.

The ducts had been placed at the top of each arch in the nave. They were about three or four feet wide, one foot tall, and shiny metal in color. Today, the air conditioning is re-routed through rondells. (No, the rondells are not an all-girl band from the 60s.) The rondells are large plaster disks mounted above the arches in the nave and molded to match the finials of our high altar. The disks are perforated so that cool air can flow out of them.

The rondells are replacing artwork from the 1914 painted artwork on the Cathedral's walls. The original artwork featured, for example, images of the Blessed Mother and said Regina Caeli. All of the original painted art was lost due to decades of soot rising from candles and incence. Towards the end of the renovation, we hope to repaint and re-stencil the entire interior of the Cathedral - including the rondells.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Doors are hung

We were able to save the doors and have them installed today. All of the drywall corners are finished too.

The photo on the right shows the restroom door. There is another door leading up to the choir loft.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Drywall is Up

The carpenters have attached drywall to the studs. I was a bit surprised to see the walls extending almost to the ceiling. The old usher's closet was about 8 feet high, but the new walls are at least 12 or 14 feet high. It will look nice - not necessarily out of place at all.

The space for the handicapped accessible bathroom is fairly large. The old bathroom was quite small. There was barely room for a toilet and a corner-mounted sink. The new bathroom is probably four times the size of the old one.

Friday, June 23, 2006

New Stairs to the Choir Loft

In order to expand the bathroom in the northern vestibule at the front of the Cathedral, workers had to reroute the stairs coming down from the choir loft. Earlier this week, workers removed the old stairs and the fixtures in the old bathroom (See previous post.)

The new stairs are complete and the walls have been framed. There is plenty of space left over for the new bathroom.

The vestibule will remain closed until the project is complete, but check back to this site often to see the updated photos.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The restroom at the back of the Cathedral is no more!

The plans to install a handicapped-accessible restroom are moving forward. The Usher's Closet, the stairs coming down from the choir loft, the fixtures in the old restroom, and the drinking fountain have been removed.

The stairs will be re-routed to make room for a larger restroom that is wheelchair friendly. The old restroom was up one step. Parishioners who use the new restroom will walk or roll directly into the restroom.

The old Chair Lift is gone

Workers began removing the old, broken chair lift that moved parishioners with disabilities up and down the stairwells. They have to take both chairs off their rails, then unbolt the rails themselves from the stairs.

Most of the parts have arrived. I will post photos of the installation when it begins.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Before and After Photos of the "Attic"

The first priority in the renovation is ensuring the structural integrity of the Cathedral building.

All is well. The job is complete. The 93 -year-old wooden structural beams that had begun to rot have been replaced. The photo on the right shows a major beam that had suffered water damage. The end of the beam is nearly gone. It had fallen six inches.

The same beam is shown after the repairs in the photo to the left. The beam is now firmly anchored to the wall. The end of the wooden beam is cradled in the orange metal piece which is bolted into the brick.

The photo on the right is another "Before" photo. This photo was taken in the space above the nave, right above the main aisle in the church. The roof rafters meet at the apex of the roof, but they have started to separate.

Here is the "After" photo of the roof rafters. The small wooden triangles ensure that the roof will retain its shape and its integrity for another century.

The final set of "before and after" photos are of the catwalk, the long walkway that connects the area above the choir loft to the area above the high altar. The catwalk runs the length of the Cathedral, eighty feet above the pews. The photo to the right shows the crude original catwalk.

The rebuilt catwalk is much safer and better lighted. In the future, workers will move materials up to the main spire. The catwalk is the only way to move from the ground to the main spire.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

First Things First

Perhaps my favorite part of my job is giving tours of the Cathedral. All year long, I schedule group tours of Holy Family. I've given tours to groups of Jews, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Luterans, grade schools, high schools, local colleges, pilgrims from Oklahoma City and elsewhere, and visitors from other countries. I used to keep track of my tours, but I stopped a few years ago when I had counted 700 tours.

The Gondola: One of most frequently asked questions is "What is that big dome up there?" The gondola was suspended from the ceiling vaults at the center of the cruciform. The gondola contained many speakers from a previous sound system and is covered with acoustically transparent cloth. The gondola was known as "the coffee filter" by many parishioners.

One of the first goals of the renovation was removing the coffee filter, er, gondola. When it was installed, it was hoisted by a winch up to the ceiling. Removal was fairly quick. However, there was a hole in the vaults through which the speakers were hung. We did not want to have a large hole in the middle of the vault, so we asked the workers to cover the hole with the bottom of the gondola. It's not perfect right now, but the ceiling will be restored to its original beauty in the renovation so that everyone will clearly see the eight sided star, a symbol of the eight days of Creation: the seven days in Genesis plus the day of the Resurrection.

The Tabernacle: The Eucharist is the center of our Faith. All Catholics have a great respect for Our Lord's Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. From the 1974 renovation until just recently, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the tabernacle in the Blessed Virgin's altar on the left side of the apse.

At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2006 - after an incredibly large number of people were Baptised, Received into the Faith, Confirmed, and received their First Communion - Monsignor Gier returned the Eucharist to the tabernacle in the high altar. Before the Vigil Mass, the Bishop's cathedra (his chair) was moved to a prominent place on the side so that it would not be blocking the tabernacle. We moved the sanctuary lamp from the altar of the Blessed Virgin to the middle of the apse so that it would be near the tabernacle.

The parishioners of Holy Family have responded with great praise for this decision. The Cathedral now looks much more like it did at its dedication in 1914.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Original Construction (1912-1914)

In 1912, Reverend John Gerhard Heiring and his bishop, Most Reverend Theophile Meerschaert, broke ground on Eighth Street on Boulder Avenue with the dream of constructing a beautiful church - a sign of the permanent Catholic presence in Tulsa.

Upon its completion in 1914, Holy Family Church was the tallest building in Tulsa. Although the new skyscrapers are far larger than Holy Family, the church remains one of the "must see" landmarks in downtown Tulsa. Monsignor Heiring called the church a "Tri-Spired Gem," referring to the three soaring spires.

By 1931, the Catholic population in Oklahoma had grown to a point where the solitary Bishop of Oklahoma had to travel between Oklahoma City and Tulsa to celebrate major Masses. Holy Family in Tulsa and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oklahoma City became "co-cathedrals."

In 1947, Holy Family's original palette of pale greens, blues, and yellows needed to be repainted due to three decades of soot from candles and incense. The priests chose an ornate series of stencil patterns.

In 1973, the Diocese of Oklahoma was split into two. The newly created Archdiocese of Oklahoma City consisted of the western parts of Oklahoma. The Diocese of Tulsa comprised eastern Oklahoma and had as its cathedral, Holy Family. The following year, the Cathedral was again renovated to accomodate the changes following the Second Vatican Council and the changes due to becoming a Cathedral. The ornate stencils were replaced with a more serene, monochromatic color scheme.

As Holy Family Cathedral nears its centennial in 2014, Reverend Monsignor Gregory A. Gier and the Cathedral's Building Committee is working to ensure that Holy Family retains all of its beauty for another hundred years.