Sanctuary Closed: Ceiling Plaster Failure
On Wednesday evening, September 28, 2011, plaster suddenly fell from the ceiling of the sanctuary, causing damage to the ceiling and chandelier, which must be repaired before we can open again. We retained an architectural consultant specializing in historical structures, and also a specialized construction company with unique equipment and expertise for this kind of work. Upon their review it was determined that the damage was not localized to the chandelier area, but is a systemic failure in the attachment of the plaster ribs and crosspieces to the ceiling; after 120 years, it is failing. This is an expensive enterprise, likely costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An engineering firm has been hired to advise us. They will develop repair options, create drawings, get bids, and supervise the work when it is undertaken.
Old First is very grateful to the Sacred Sites program at the New York Landmarks Conservancy for a grant of $7500 to help us with the assessment of our damaged sanctuary ceiling. More fund raising to come to cover the balance of the cost of the assessment and upcoming repairs.
How the Ceiling Was Crafted
Our incredible lacunar ceiling was created circa 1890 by highly skilled craftsmen of Italian descent who also worked on some of the city's grandest office buildings. The bone structures, ribs and raised frames which surround the coffers are not carved in wood but are enormous pieces of cast plaster, molded and sculpted by these craftsmen, then raised and affixed to the wooden skeleton of the ceiling. This framework surrounds beautifully stenciled designs, layer over layer of subtle, contrasting colors in green and gold over the lighter rosy sienna base color. Other decorative plasterwork in the sanctuary includes leafy and floral motifs atop columns, arches and above our Tojetti painting.
The quality of the decorative plaster is unexcelled and is rarely seen after this time period. The gifts of 19th century artisans can be seen throughout.
The sanctuary was dedicated in September 1891. Read more.
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© All photographs and images are copyrighted and require permission from artist to download or use. Photographs are by Jane Barber unless otherwise noted.
Written content edited from many sources previously produced by the Church and by Rev. Daniel Meeter.