St. Matthew's Cathedral

Project Spotlight: St. Matthew’s Cathedral

E.C. Ernst was part of a team assembled to restore the Cathedral originally founded in 1893. The Church remained opened during the entire restoration project with four daily masses. E.C. Ernst employees received the Washington Building Congress 2004 “Star Award for Visual Excellence” for this project.

As a member of the team assembled to restore the Cathedral, E.C. Ernst was responsible for the electrical effort, including:

  • Removal of all of the lighting from the interior of the Cathedral.
  • Refurbishment and rewire some of the original lighting fixtures.
  • Development shop drawings for the structural support system, lighting control system and circuitry layout.
  • Installation of structural support, motorized and manual lowering devices for the existing and new chandeliers.
  • The chandeliers could not be installed until the scaffolding was removed so attention to detail and quality control was paramount.
  • Installation of a programmable lighting control system.
  • Installation of concealed feeders and lighting circuits.
  • This proved to be a very challenging effort. The vaulted ceilings were 75’ above the floor. The space above the ceilings is accessible from the basement through small vertical shafts. The walls were marble or mosaics over concrete or terracotta tiles.

All of work was done in phases and the Church remained open during the entire restoration project with three daily Masses. In addition, our work had to be accomplished with minimal disruptions to those responsible for painstaking task of restoring the decorative finishes covering virtually every surface in the facility. Artists worked months on each painting, some as large as 50’ x 25’. Their work had to be 100% complete before the scaffolding was removed.

The vaulted ceilings posed another delicate challenge. They were plaster castings and very fragile to work above. We installed thousands of pounds of steel framing above the ceilings for supporting the 500± lb chandeliers, with 30’ stems. These supports were designed to be assembled using pieces small enough to get up to the ceiling space through limited access points. The work was done in cramped and in truly sweltering conditions.

The restoration started in 2000 and in September of 2003, the Mass of Thanksgiving was held celebrating the restoration. At the conclusion of the project, E.C. Ernst employees received the Washington Building Congress 2004 “Star Award for Visual Excellence” for their efforts on the restoration project.

E.C. Ernst was teamed with the following companies and individuals for this project:

  • Oehrlein & Associates Architects - - Supervising Architects
  • Giuliani Associates Architects - - Initial Structural Study
  • EverGreene Painting Studios - - Interior Restoration
  • Franz Mayer Co. - - Interior Mosaics
  • James Meyers Co. - - Dome
  • RG Jones Sound Engineering - - Sound System
  • Safway Steel Co. - - Scaffolding
  • Scott Watson - - Lighting Consultant
  • Rambusch Lighting - - Lighting Manufacturer
  • Waters Craftsmen - - Exterior Masonry

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