Brooke Ten Eyck, Senior Project Manager at The First Church of Christ, Scientist, points to some of the apparent ironies built into the multi-phased renovation of The Mother Church, an icon in the City of Boston.
“When the project is completed next spring, the building will look no different,” she says. “And, Covid actually allowed us to accelerate the timeline for the interior restoration. People weren’t in the building, making it easier for the work to proceed ahead of schedule.”
The project, which began with a design phase launched in 2016, addresses structural and decorative decay in the church’s two worship spaces, the original Romanesque Revival Mother Church, built in 1894, and the much larger domed Mother Church Extension, which dates to 1906. The two connected buildings are at the heart of the 13.5-acre Christian Science Plaza, which includes The Mary Baker Eddy Library, the How Do You See the World? exhibit spaces, the Publishing House which houses the administrative offices, a reflecting pool and fountain. It is the largest privately-owned, yet publicly accessible space in Boston.
The restoration process included replacing leaking roofs, repairing and replacing terra cotta, repairing and patching limestone walls, restoring Tennessee Marble floors and stairs, mosaic repair and plaster and paint restoration.
“Water was getting into the building, damaging plaster, paint and other surfaces,” says Regan Shields Ives, principal at Finegold Alexander Architects, who headed up the interior work. “Our goal was to refresh the building, yet leave no trace of our work, so that it looks as it did when it was originally completed in 1894 in the Original edifice and 1906 for the Extension.”
While Covid unexpectedly disrupted schedules everywhere in the spring of 2020, it actually aided this project. Contractors that may have been furloughed on other projects were able to work and focus on the interior repairs and restoration.
“Until the shut down due to Covid, the church was always open for church services, prayer and contemplation,” says Ten Eyck. “While work was going on in the Original church, we used the Extension for services. Then, when work commenced in the Extension, we moved services into the Original church. That way, both the work and church services could proceed unhindered. ”Since June 2021, we have been holding services in the church again.”
About a dozen subcontractors have brought their expertise to the project, including Grande Masonry.
“All the stone work on the building was done at an exceptionally high level of quality,” says Timothy Withers, vice president of construction and technical services. “They cut no corners and created spectacular work. Our biggest challenge is to match the colors of the new masonry to the old; it is more an art than a science. When you deal with a great old building like this, each problem requires a different solution.
“Fortunately,” he adds, “We have very well trained masons in Boston today.”
“We are in the final stage of the work,” Regan Shields Ives says. “Initially, it was important to make the whole building watertight; then the interior work could be done. In spring of 2022 it will be done and the Extension edifice will be open to the public again. It will look just like it did and it will be done right on schedule.”
For more information including project photos, go to: https://plaza.christianscience.com/church-repair-project-overview/