Nov. 12 will be a big day for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The cathedral will not only open its doors for the first time since an earthquake damaged the landmark, it will be kicking a $25-million donation campaign into high gear.
Felt from North Carolina to Boston, the 5.8 earthquake on Aug. 23 knocked down parts of the English Gothic cathedral's four pinnacles, gargoyles and other ornamental fixtures around the perimeter. Additional damage followed on Sept. 7, when a crane working on the south side of the cathedral to stabilize debris fell against another facility, the Herb Cottage.
“We’re going to need the support of people across the country,” said Richard Weinberg, a spokesman for the cathedral. “We’ll be appealing to the National Cathedral Assn. [the Cathedral’s nonprofit fundraising foundation], who were responsible for building the cathedral in the first place, but we also want to reach new people who have heard about the earthquake coverage. The cathedral does serve as the spiritual home of the nation.”
The repair work is already underway, with a 550-ton-capacity crane being used to build scaffolding around the cathedral's main tower. Once the 70 tons of steel scaffolding beams are in place, all four 40-foot pinnacles will be completely removed for reconstruction.
The stone mason charged with refurbishing the cathedral's pinnacles said the project could last more than a decade.
About $15 million of the total fundraising goal will pay for short-term repairs; $10 million is intended to aid cathedral operations through 2012.
Though the exterior needs additional clean-up and stabilization before the cathedral reopens, the interior is completely safe and undamaged, Weinberg said. All tours and services offered prior to the earthquake will be back on schedule.
The Washington National Cathedral is an Episcopal church that welcomes people of all religions to worship and take part in services.
When open, it draws a monthly average of 35,000 visitors. During its closure, the cathedral has been holding services at the Agnes Cochran Underwood Athletic Center in Washington, D.C., for a much smaller group of worshippers.
The consecration of the cathedral’s ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese, the Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, on Nov. 12 will be the first of many events on the cathedral’s reopening week.
--Alexa Vaughn in Washington, D.C.
Photo: A construction crane being used to make repairs to the earthquake-damaged National Cathedral lies overturned after a mishap Sept. 7. Credit: EPA / Shawn Thew