Eyewitness to History: St. Rose of Lima steeple restoration project

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CARBONDALE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Tonight we are looking at preserving an Upvalley landmark.

St. Rose of Lima in Carbondale is one of the oldest parish communities in northeastern and central Pennsylvania. In this week’s WBRE/WYOU Eyewitness to History, photojournalist Joseph Butash shows us some of the precision and talent necessary to keep a historical worship site maintained for future generations.

The church was established in 1832 so it goes way back. And this steeple, it really is a landmark in the Carbondale community and beyond. St. Rose of Lima Parish on Church Street in this “Pioneer City” is in the midst of a huge restoration project.

“The steeple, it really is a landmark. The deterioration became very obvious to everybody, just the need to do something because I think the majority of the work is going to be cosmetic, but there is also some structural damage just due to the way the building moved and shifted over the course of time. So there is brick and beautiful bluestone that’s part of the façade,” Father Jeffrey J. Walsh said.

Part of the crew traveled over 100 miles, everyday, from Shamokin, Northumberland County to build skyward.

“The scaffolding really was remarkable to see. It’s like a giant erector set. Very professional company Safway came in to do that work for us, I think they are out of Harrisburg. It took two weeks, and it was amazing, how efficient they were, and being able to take care of that, and really just building it from the ground up,” Father Walsh said.

“Different scaffold jobs are different sizes, but this particular one is an engineered one. We have a blueprint we work off of. Each elevation that someone works on we consider a deck. And our top deck on this one would be 93 feet,” Eric Steenburg with Brandsafway Global Company said.

“And as you can see it goes all the way to the top rung, where a’l the work is going to be done. Right up to where part of the steeple where there is the green tile. That green tile is already taken care of, it looks brand new actually. But everything from below that green tile, they needed to be able to erect the scaffolding, put the decking around, so the workers can do the work,” Father Walsh said.

“It has all been pre-engineered to make sure the roof load can hold everything,” Steenburg said.

“In the midst of a pandemic, we raised just about $850,000. We’re about $2,000 short of our goal at this point, and we have some overruns and things like that. We’re still going to be doing some fundraising. But really is a tremendous testimony to the faith of this community and the people’s support of it. Not only even as in terms of parishioners and those who belong to the parish community, but like I said business leaders who recognize the historical value and the role that this building plays in our Carbondale community,” Father Walsh said.

The hope is that the work at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale will be completed
sometime in July.

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