Cathedral’s steeple, renovation are on schedule

CHARLESTON — The bells could be ringing in the new steeple at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist by early 2010.
Encased in scaffolding and draped in black cloth, the Cathedral is currently a work in progress. But officials with the project said everything is moving smoothly.
Jamie Kilgallen, executive director of construction operations at Hightower Construction Co., said the restoration of the Cathedral’s brownstone, and the fabrication and installation of the steeple is on schedule.
So far, brownstone restoration on the east side closest to the parking lot has been completed, while the west side on Legare Street and the rear of the church will be finished next, he said.
Even when the stonework is complete, however, the scaffolding will remain up a bit longer so workers can make finishing touches such as painting window trim and cleaning.
The Diocese of Charleston chose the local firm Hightower Construction to oversee the project and subcontract with Dan Lepore & Sons from Phila­delphia, Pa. Hightower is building the steeple and Lepore is restoring the brownstone.
Jack Murphy, superintendent of Lepore & Sons, said the front of the church should be finished in October. The work consists of removing and repointing joints in the brownstone and replacing deteriorating places. He said they will cover a total of 27 miles and replace 1,500 stones. Murphy said they have also replaced slates on the roof to prevent leaks and will give the building a low-pressure, gentle cleansing when everything is complete.
“Everybody’s been working real well together and the project’s been going real smooth,” he said.
Once the brownstone is finished, the steeple will be added. Kilgallen said the steeple, which rises 85 feet high, is being built offsite in three separate sections. The crown will be an 8-foot-tall copper cross.  
“It’ll certainly make an impact on the city skyline. It’s quite beautiful,” Kilgallen said.
The diocese has raised $3.5 million through the Our Heritage, Our Hope campaign to help pay for the restoration and steeple, said Matt Dwyer, director of the Office of Stewardship and Mission Advancement.
The other half of the funding will come from the Cathedral parish, which has gone a long way to reaching its $3.5 million goal. John Caputo, who is on the fundraising committee, said they still need $426,000 in pledges.
One of the ways they hope to reach the mark is through the second annual Ball of the Bells, scheduled for Nov. 14. Caputo said they also have stained-glass window memorials available for purchase.
For more information call John Caputo at (843) 559-8800, or John Thom at the Cathedral at (843) 724-8395.