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St. Paul's Cathedral prepares for facelift

| Saturday, Sept. 10, 2005, 12:00 p.m.

On the threshold of its 100th birthday, St. Paul's Cathedral in Oakland is due for a major restoration.

The landmark church building, located along Fifth Avenue on a block bordered by North Craig and North Dithridge streets, is to undergo a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation expected to be completed in time for its anniversary celebration in October 2006.

"This is the mother church for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, and hopefully this work will help preserve its legacy for hundreds of years to come," said the Rev. Donald P. Breier, rector and pastor.

"This has to be done to preserve the structural integrity of the building as a safety factor, not only for those who worship at the cathedral, but for people passing by."

A Sunday church bulletin for St. Paul's approximately 1,700 member families explained the work will include reinforcing the two front towers of the Flemish Gothic style cathedral with new steel interior girders, rebuilding four side towers and repairing or replacing exterior stonework.

In addition, the entire building will be re-pointed and cleaned.

Breier said he hopes the work will begin in October and be complete within seven months.

Normal church operations won't be affected, he said.

Preliminary cost estimates for the project range from $5 million to $10 million, but aren't final, he said.

A planned fundraising campaign is temporarily on hold because of the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

"Funding will be delayed for a time so that people's focus can be on the tremendous need for hurricane victims," Breier said.

Cathy McCollom, program officer for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, said the foundation designated the cathedral a historic landmark in 1975.

"The twin spires of St. Paul's Cathedral are prominent, familiar objects on the Oakland skyline, establishing the eastern part of the neighborhood," McCollom said.

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