National Cathedral Earthquake Repair Work Could Last Another Decade

8:26 AM, Dec 22, 2011   |    comments
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National Cathedral repairs (Paul Lester)

WASHINGTON DC (WUSA) -- Repairing the earthquake damage to the Washington National Cathedral could take a decade or more according to the head stone mason on the restoration project.

"There's at least ten years of work, if not more," Joe Alonso said in an interview with 9NEWS NOW. He was part of the team which handled the major work done to complete the building during the 1980s.

YEAR-END CHALLENGE: Cathedral donations will be matched through December 31

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake in August, 2011 caused severe damage to the cathedral. It shook the tops off several of the spires and damaged many of the intricate stone pieces both inside and outside the building. Alonso called the damage he saw on his initial inspection "mind boggling."

The Cathedral reopened in November after being closed for four months so important work could be done to remove damage and stabilize the building. "I feel good about what's been accomplished in these last months," Alonso said. "The building is safe."  It will be open for Christmas services, which begin at 9:00am on December 25.

The first stone for the Washington National Cathedral was laid in 1907. The first chapel, the Bethlehem Chapel, opened in 1912. It wasn't until 1990 when construction was finally completed as work on the West Towers ended.

PHOTO GALLERY: Repairs to the Washington National Cathedral

Fixing the damage and rebuilding the cathedral is not an easy task and not a cheap one. It will cost millions of dollars to pay for repairs. At least one "generous" supporter will match cash donations dollar-for-dollar, up to $500,000, through December 31. It is part of what's called the "Year-End Challenge." By visiting the Cathedral's website, you can register your donation for this matching program. You can also specify whether your donation goes to an "unrestricted support" fund of the Cathedral, or only towards earthquake repair.

Now that the structure is secure there is a lot left to be done to restore the Cathedral and to ensure damage like this won't happen again. Alonso said Cathedral workers will "try and minimize the damage if [an earthquake], God forbid, were to ever happen again."

Written by Dan Guzman

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