St. Francis Xavier Church was founded in 1819 and is Cincinnati’s first Catholic church. The registered historic landmark was erected in 1859 and has been a staple of the city since. In 1880, a fire destroyed the original roof and a new roof was installed between 1881-1882. Presumably, the fire also caused some of the stone deterioration. Two predominant institutions in the city and state are named after the church, St. Xavier High School and Xavier University.
The Durable Restoration Company is restoring the historic church back to its original state. A full rake out and repoint of the east elevation and the bell tower will be performed with historically correct lime mortar. St. Francis Xavier Church had been repointed previously using a Portland cement mortar which is inappropriate for historic structures. It can trap moisture in the stone, advancing its deterioration. The historic lime mortar is a more breathable mortar for the stone and allows moisture to evaporate more easily.
Besides moisture, the stone deterioration has numerous causes: failing mortar joints, poor previous repairs, vegetation, and pollution. The pollution on the exterior of the church has come from a variety of different sources. Because St. Francis Xavier Church sits so close to the Ohio river, the coal being transported on the river over the years has caused build up on the stone. The bell tower also has vegetation growth which is not good for the health of the building. Stuck seeds grow inside the mortar joint, cracking it open. Further, as the vegetation grows the roots grow deeper into the building allowing water to infiltrate. To rectify these problems and restore the stone’s natural beauty, we will perform a 108 stone patch beginning with the bell tower, working our way downward.
Due to age and material build up on the copper, four copper pans will be installed on the bell tower balcony. Lead t-caps be installed as well to protect the skyward facing mortar joints from failing and allowing water to get under or behind the stone.
In addition, new upper box gutters will be installed on the north and south elevations of the church along with new expansion joints and downspouts. The original gutter system was installed with inadequate expansion joints, restricting the copper’s natural thermal movement and the new downspouts will help move water away from the building.