More masonry repairs under way at Franco Center

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Hollis Curtis of Stone Age Masonry Inc. preps the construction site outside  the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston on Monday morning. Crews will work over the next month to shore up three of the buttresses supporting the spire at the former St. Mary's Church at 46 Cedar St.

LEWISTON — The Franco-American Heritage Center's 105-year-old shell of granite is getting more care.

Masons are working to repair three buttresses on the former St. Mary's Church, lest water and ice do further damage to the grand, Gothic structure.

A $40,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation is paying for part of the work. The money was matched by private donations, including an anonymous $25,000 gift.

"Water was seeping and raising havoc," said Louis Morin, the center's executive director.

In some places, gaps of half an inch or more have opened between the blocks of stone. Those buttresses help carry the load of the church structure and its steeple.

Already, about $6 million has been spent on the building's renovation since the Franco-American Heritage Center was formed in 2000. About half of that money was spent on masonry and much of the $6 million came from United States Department of Agriculture grants.

Those sources have largely dried up. The Maine Community Foundation money was made available as part of a specialty fund created to preserve Maine's steeples.

Another $1.5 million in stonework remains, said Rita Dube, the center's outgoing director and co-founder. Dube is scheduled to retire Thursday, her 70th birthday.

Stonework is complete on the front of the building, she said. The remaining three sides all need repairs.

After the masonry is complete, money will be targeted at the former church's stained glass. Some of the windows are beginning to buckle with age and weight, Dube said.

"It seems like we jump from one emergency to another," she said.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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Steve  Dosh's picture

. .Dan 12:22 hst Tuesday .

. .Dan 12:22 hst Tuesday
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/s, Santa Steve
http://www.noradsanta.org/

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