Shawn Thibault, director of Ravenstone Conservation, gave Pastor Noel Wygier an update on the stone restoration work underway at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in the downtown. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff)

Shawn Thibault, director of Ravenstone Conservation, gave Pastor Noel Wygier an update on the stone restoration work underway at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in the downtown. (Photo by Susan Zielinski/Advocate staff)

Red Deer’s oldest church is getting a facelift

Stone restoration underway at St. Luke’s Anglican Church

Restoring and preserving the stone exterior of St. Luke’s Anglican Church has meant returning to traditional stone mason methods and tools.

Shawn Thibault, director of Ravenstone Conservation, said concrete mortar used in repairs about 40 years, which was the industry standard at the time, is more durable, but has actually caused some of the sandstone bricks to decay.

“Although it was done very well back in the 80s, it’s caused the stone to fail,” said Thibault, who started work on the bell tower of the downtown church about two weeks ago.

Scaffolding is in place to reach the top of the tower where a lot of the bricks have started to dissolve.

He said the sandstone bricks are like giant sponges and the mortar joint is there to reduce the impact of salt and other environmental factors. Using a softer, traditional mortar, can actually reverse damage and heal the stones.

“The downside to that is something has to give. We have either the mortar, or the stone, that’s going to give. Something has to be sacrificial. Traditionally it was our mortar. We didn’t understand that.”

He said only what’s necessary will be replaced to get the church back to as close to its original as possible to allow it to “grow old gracefully.”

“It’s more of a holistic approach to the building. If we do that, then these buildings essentially last forever. But if we put the wrong interventions in, we speed up that decay process,” Thibault said.

Related:

St. Luke’s church earns provincial designation

Exterior restoration started last year at St. Luke’s.

Priest Noel Wygiera said work on the bell tower will take about three more years, after this year, then other parts of the building will be addressed. Work is being broken down into $100,000 projects to make the restoration more manageable.

Work this year will cost about $110,000. A grant from Government of Alberta Historic Resources Management Branch of Alberta Culture and Status of Women was approved to help with the repairs.

Wygiera said it’s a difficult economy to try and raise money for restoration, but it has gotten to the point where the church can’t afford not to do the restoration.

“We’re stewards. We have to make the effort to make these things happen,” Wygiera said.

Built in stages between 1899 and 1906, St. Luke’s is Red Deer’s oldest church.

“The priest of the parish at the time, Joshua Hinchliffe, was actually the mason who oversaw the project. Once they had enough of it built for the community to gather on Sunday mornings, they used the space they had available.”



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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Restoration and conservation work is continuing at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in the downtown. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Restoration and conservation work is continuing at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in the downtown. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)