RBCD Rewind: Restoration and Renewal: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Considered the Mother Church of the Diocese of Albany, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is situated in Albany’s Mansion District and was built between 1848-1852.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In preparation for its 150th anniversary in 2002, a major preservation and restoration effort was implemented to address safety concerns. Ryan Biggs | Clark Davis provided structural engineering services for the exterior masonry restoration, interior renovations, and reconstruction of the stairs over the better part of a decade.  The Cathedral’s existing vertically bedded brownstone had extensively delaminated and failed, primarily from freeze-thaw cycles. The exterior restoration included replacement of the brownstone for 60 percent of the building including the 190-foot-high north tower. At the time, it was considered the largest brownstone restoration in the Western Hemisphere. The project included in-situ testing of proposed stone anchors; analysis of the structure under construction loading; design of scaffolding support; and design of the north tower steeple reinforcing and hold-down, post-tensioned cables. Nearly 12,000 stones were replaced including six-sided ashlars, mechanically profiled pieces, and hand-carved ornamental stones, and four wooded clock faces were replaced with hand-carved stone tracery. An on-site fabrication shop was erected at the Cathedral; traditional stone carving techniques were showcased through observation windows in an effort to educate the public of nineteenth century construction methods.  The interior renovation included reconfiguration of the altar, restoration of the neo-gothic plaster, and structural improvements of the floors. All this work was coordinated around a crypt located beneath the Cathedral, which houses the coffins of six former Bishops.

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