Even with a lull in on-site work in a Midwestern cathedral restoration, Joe Becker still finds plenty to do in putting the pieces together -- including the need to change quarries in the middle of the job.

Editor's note: Joe Becker continues his report on the natural-stone segment of the St. Joseph Cathedral restoration in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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As the long, cold, and snowy winter creeps along, so does our time away from the jobsite. We have been offsite since mid-November, but the absence seems longer.

As the project manager, my involvement in this project started in the spring of 2008, and for two-and-a-half years there’s been a file folder labeled “Church of St Joseph” somewhere on my desk. With 95 percent of the paperwork completed, I put the file to the side and focused on other minor things, like finding more work for the company – because, yes, there is life after St Joseph.
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Time is also creeping along for our installers. I’ve never been a field guy, but -- having been around them for 25 years – I can safely say that they’d rather be working rather than ice fishing. Not every construction guy ice fishes when they’re not off the job, but attempting to romanticize unemployment is a noble cause.

We do have some work and on occasion I see Al in the shop picking up a project to install. He is usually smiling, but the smiles are even bigger; the fishing has been good.

When we left the jobsite in November, Sioux Falls Construction (SFC) converted the church’s interior to a temporary concert hall. It’s been the tradition for the Diocese of Sioux Falls to have a Christmas concert in the Cathedral; it’s a community event for Sioux Falls, and a big fund raiser for the diocese.

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In spite of the construction, 2010 would be no different. SFC covered the marble floor with Styrofoam and ¾” plywood, brought in temporary seats, and built a stage for the choirs and orchestra. The construction team decided to leave the (entrance) marble floor uncovered to see how their new marble would perform under some pretty tough conditions.

Salt, grit, snow would be brought in over the polished floor from thousands of shoes. The conditions are tough but are a reality in a cold climate where, from December until March, there’s the chance of snow and ice.

I did visit the church after the concerts and looked at the narthex floor. There were some noticeable scratches in the darker-color marbles, but nothing out of the ordinary that a buffing machine couldn’t take care of.

In a previous blog I mentioned a potential material issue with the Rosso Barocco marble used for the four large baldacchino columns. The potential turned into a reality, and the color of the marble was changed to Verde St Denis, a green variety from northern Italy.

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This development unfolded in the months of November and December, as the original quarry never produced a Rosso Barocco block large enough for the columns. The projects’ schedule, and the fact that the Rosso Barocco quarry closed for the winter, dictated this decision.

We were all disappointed that the Rosso Barocco could not be used, but none more than Bishop Swain, who selected the material. I expect more conversation on this subject, but it’ll have to wait for a future blog.

As I write this blog in late January, container number seven is due to arrive in Norfolk, Va., this week. Crated inside the container is the marble for the cathedra and high altar. Timing is good as Al and the guys are ready to get back to work.

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That’s good for the guys, and great news for the fish.

Thanks for reading,

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twin City Tile and Marble Co.
St. Paul, Minn.

Joe Becker has been in the natural-stone business for 26 years. He started with Cold Spring Granite as a draftsman and spent time in their stone installation and estimating departments. He is currently Vice President of St. Paul, Minn.-based Twin City Tile and Marble Co. and oversees their stone operations.

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