St. Stanislaus Dome Restoration on Track for Fall Completion
Structural Work Done, New Copper Panels Being Installed
Restoration of the domes of the iconic clock towers of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church along I-94 on Milwaukee’s South Side is on track, with F.J.A. Christiansen Roofing Co. crews now installing new copper panels on the north and south towers, and soon to move to the lower west tower.
As noted in the winter issue of The Roofers Report, FJAC is re-cladding three domes at the church, restoring structures that sit atop the two main towers on the east side of the landmark church, and installing newly fabricated copper crosses for all three towers.
Despite their age and constant exposure to the elements, the structures are in fairly good shape, allowing them to continue to serve as a substrate for the resurfacing, noted Don Walter, FJAC Vice President. They were last resurfaced in 1962, when the original copper sheeting was replaced with steel and aluminum covered with 23-carat gold leaf. That gold has nearly entirely worn away.
The existing, weather-worn panels were removed from both of the main domes on the church’s east side, facing I-94. Rotted wood was replaced, and an ice and water underlayment was applied, followed by a flexible resin coating. After installation of a copper sill, new diamond-shaped copper panels, about 2’x2’ and fabricated in FJAC’s Sheet Metal Department are now being installed atop those coatings, said Todd Samuel, FJAC project manager. After encountering some structural steel rust, an epoxy coating was applied to inhibit further rust.
“While we have seen some weather-related wear, we’ve hit no snags. That’s good because on projects like this, there are often unknowns until you tear off existing materials. So it’s good to note that the project is proceeding very smoothly,” Samuel added.
The 19-foot-tall top portions of the east domes remain at FJAC for restoration work, and will be returned and lifted into position as one of the project’s final aspects. Once in place, the new crosses will be lifted into position and secured to the domes. The three new crosses are being fabricated by Heather + Little of Ontario, Canada, along with other elements.
Crews are on schedule for completion by fall, noted FJAC Sheet Metal Superintendent Jeff Keller.
While FJAC crews are working on the copper cladding, Holton Brothers is tuck pointing all masonry joints of the towers.
“Once completed, the copper domes and crosses will be a pretty amazing site for people driving by along I-94 and anywhere in that neighborhood,” Samuel said.
St. Stanislaus, including its cross-topped towers, was constructed in 1872 to serve Polish immigrants. The building has been undergoing extensive renovations since 2016, but dome work was not in the plans until an anonymous donor stepped forward and generously offered to pay for the re-cladding.
“We knew the resurfacing of the domes was necessary, but it’s such an expensive, daunting project that we didn’t know if it would ever happen,” Abbe’ George Baird of St. Stanislaus told the Catholic Herald — the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. That was until the parish received a call from an attorney’s office stating that a client was interested in helping fund the dome restoration.
The St. Stanislaus work is another in a long list of rooftop restorations across on Milwaukee-area landmarks, including Holy Hill Shrine of Mary, the Milwaukee Federal Courthouse, the Milwaukee County Courthouse, and Milwaukee City Hall. Leading the historic renovation on site are Sheet Metal Foremen Paul Keller and Jason Thelen, while shop fabrication is provided by Sheet Metal Foreman Brad Skrzypchak. Mechanic Joel Wesenberg assisted with structural support elements for the upper-half domes staged at FJAC’s Purdue Street facility.