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Guelph’s Lady on the hill to get a facelift Print E-mail
By Robert White, Catholic Register Special   
Tuesday, 17 April 2007

GUELPH, Ont. - A long-awaited restoration of Guelph’s Church of Our Lady Immaculate begins this month with a $1.2-million refit of its towers. The church, a local landmark built on the highest point of Guelph’s downtown, was opened in 1888 after 10 years of construction. Based on Cologne Cathedral, the building was designed by famed architect Joseph Connolly — who also designed London’s St. Peter’s Cathedral. Church of Our Lady Immaculate is one of three Guelph buildings with a Parks Canada designation, in this instance a commemorative integrity statement covering the architecture, windows, organ (a mid-sized Casavantes Freres) and belfry.

Talk about restoration began in the early 1990s, said Fr. Dennis Noon, pastor with work on the slate roof completed in 1992. Subsequent plans for renovating the interior, which generated some controversy, were put on hold. The parish, which serves 2,700 families, began talking about renovations a decade later.

“When I came in 2003, the bishop talked to me about starting to move forward,” said Noon.

Consultation with the Allan Avis architectural firm resulted in a detailed report presented in 2004. The report estimated a $10- to $12-million project for work, including renovations to the towers, roof, windows and doors, interior and basement.

“The property committee took months to digest the report,” said business administrator Joe Finochio. “We had to set our priorities based on need.”

The need, said Noon, was to establish a solid exterior before working on the interior.

“We’re going to do the towers first so there won’t be any damage to the roof while they’re working on the towers,” said Noon.

The towers have deteriorated because of water damage. Ground penetrating radar and moisture sensors have been used to determine the extent of the damage. The radar confirmed gaps between inner and outer walls and the deeply installed sensors tracked the presence of moisture.

The towers will stay intact although the mortar between the stones will be injected with a compound intended to seal the towers from moisture. Semi-flexible steel ties will be installed to create further stability. The sensors will continue to record changes in moisture levels both pre- and post-restoration.

The work, which was to begin in the week after Easter, will take four months to complete. Noon said by next summer work to replace the roof will then begin. The entire church restoration should be completed by the end of 2008, with funding coming from both the congregation and the diocese of Hamilton.

“People in the community look at the church as a real symbol of Guelph,” said Noon. “The restoration will bring back a lot of its beauty.”

(White is a freelance writer in Guelph, Ont.)

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 May 2007 )
 
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