For 170 years, the gothic tower of St. Paul’s Cathedral, episcopal seat of the diocese of Huron, has overlooked downtown London, Ont. But an unstable roof and sagging walls now threaten the building’s structural integrity, and unless money can be raised in time to repair it before winter sets in, the building could become unsafe, says senior churchwarden Melissa Broadfoot.
“We cannot go through another winter,” she told the Anglican Journal. “The danger is that it will become unsafe…so we’re really trying to save the building.”
The fault, Broadfoot explained, lies with the wooden trusses that hold up the roof. After decades of water damage, the ends of the trusses have rotted away, putting more pressure on the walls and leading to water damage to the brick.
The parish became aware of the issue in 2013, when persistent water infiltration caused plaster to start peeling off the walls. But the extent of the problem was only revealed in 2015, when a full inspection of the church’s gutter work was undertaken. Engineers were contracted to install steel shores that would keep the building stable in the short term, new gutters and downpipes were installed, and plans were made for more comprehensive work in 2016.
However, the restoration comes with a significant price tag: Broadfoot says it will cost roughly $1 million to cover the structural repairs to the roof, with further costs related to cosmetic restoration in the interior to be incurred after the project is complete.
To spearhead fundraising efforts, the cathedral has launched Project Jericho. (“[The name] is kind of ironic,” Broadfoot chuckled. “We don’t want the walls to come tumbling down!”)
While only $120,000 has been raised so far, Broadfoot is optimistic.
“We’re doing everything we can right now to raise the funds, to try to keep the repairs going,” she said, noting that in recent months the parish, diocese and wider London community have rallied around the beleaguered building, and are using everything from jam sales to community dinners to bring in money.
“The London community has actually responded very well-we’ve got quite a few donations coming in,” she said. “[And] the diocese of Huron is also going to be helping us with a campaign.”
When asked what value the building has for the wider community in London, Broadfoot explained the cathedral has been involved in many significant moments in the life of London, with the original church actually predating its incorporation as a town.
“It is really hard to separate St. Paul’s history from London’s history,” she said.