“Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in?’”-- 2 Samuel 7:5
St. James Episcopal Church has been in the heart of Baton Rouge since the early days of the city. Originally located on what was known as Church Street, St. James currently stands at the corner of Fourth and Convention Streets. Our original church was constructed in the 1840s and survived tornadoes, yellow fever, the Battle of Baton Rouge, occupation in post-Civil War years, and Reconstruction.
The church building we know today was financed with a capital campaign seeded by the Easter Offering of 1890. By the spring of 1895, St. James had begun construction of the new building — the church we know and love today.
The first services in the new St. James Episcopal Church were conducted on June 21, 1896. The building was celebrated as a magnificent new church and adornment to the city of Baton Rouge, and is now 120 years young.
St. James Episcopal Church is today a vibrant member of downtown Baton Rouge and an important member of the league of churches located here.
The parish’s footprint has changed and grown over the years, increasing with a Day School as well as additional ministry facilities and spaces.
St. James has an active community of spiritual leadership, lay leadership, and volunteers working cooperatively to provide spiritual, educational, social, and service ministries to the Baton Rouge area.
We are a parish community of 1500 members. Our Day School community comprises about 300 families. Our outreach through mission and ministry reaches another one thousand persons throughout the area, providing lunches and breakfasts to many. Our founding and continuing connection to St. James Place extends the reach of our community to another 300 people.
Today, our historic church building is in need of special care and repairs.
Following a successful campaign for funding in late 2016 and early 2017, work now begins. Follow along in the photo gallery below as the work progresses:
In September we focused on completing the mortar removal on the Convention Street side along with the 4th Street side (upper portions) that are being accessed with the lift. We also focused on the rear stairway area. All three locations now have the mortar removed.
Our focus has turned to repointing the mortar back in, using the custom color-matched Natural Hydraulic Lime Mortar. As of today, the rear step area is complete, approximately half of the Convention Street side is complete, and three-quarters of the 4th Street side is complete.
As far as the stripping of the paint from the windows and sills and repainting them, the Convention Street side is complete. The 4th Street side and rear are complete, with the storm windows in place. The inner courtyard side tall slender windows are stripped with a couple of them now painted. Concurrently, the mortar removal has also started in the inner courtyard area.
Now in October, we will continue to remove the mortar on the inner courtyard and begin to repoint it. During this time we will finish the repointing on the 4th Street side and the Convention Street side.
We will also have the storm windows complete on the Convention Street side, along with the ladders installed in the bell tower.
Please see our September photos of the project, below, and please do not hesitate to contact me with any and all questions or concerns. Thank you so much for trusting Durable with your unique and distinctive church. We are so thrilled to be restoring it so that it may continue its purpose and thrive in the future.
This past month was primarily focused on completing the front façade in areas where the scaffold was needed for access. While a daunting task, we are happy to say that we did accomplish this! We also focused on getting enough work completed on the rear scaffold so that we can have the scaffold dismantled in time for the start of the school year. We feel confident that we will be able to hit that target as well, however, if anything changes, you will be the first to know.
Some of the focus areas from July include: raking out the Portland cement mortar and repointing it with custom color-matched Natural Hydraulic Lime Mortar, stripping the windows and sills of any paint, sealing them against any organic growth/pests and repainting them, again with a custom color, exterior-grade quality paint. Finally, we also worked diligently on the new storm window coverings in terms of getting them manufactured to custom sizes and beginning to install the mechanism which will hold the glass in place.
In August, we will be completing the work on the rear which utilizes access from the scaffold (with every intention of completing that in time for the new school year), we will begin the erection of scaffold on the sides of the church and will begin the rake out, and repoint of those façades. We will continue work in the front façade from the man-lift, again with the intention of completing that shortly.
Please see our photos of the project from July and please do not hesitate to contact me with any and all questions or concerns. Thank you so much for trusting Durable with your unique and distinctive church. We are so thrilled to be restoring it so that it may continue its life and thrive in the future.
Julie Helene Butler
Project Manager – Durable Restoration
Ed. note: The Durable Slate photos submitted are those dated "July 2017" in the gallery, just above these notes.
Durable Slate mobilized on site on June 5-6, and scaffold erection began for the first phase of scaffold work which includes the rear of the structure, and the front.
The beginning of the month consisted mostly of setting up general provisions both for work to begin and for church, pedestrian, and crew safety. Also, roofing work was undertaken to repair broken slate shingles, failing caulking, and some minor copper work.
The second half of the month has been full speed ahead with raking out the Portland mortar of the joints and giving this church her first chance to breathe in years! While the weather has not cooperated as much as we would like, we have been working around that, and the church schedule, in order to have the least impact on the church’s parishioners.
Off-site, we have been diligently working on plans for the custom window coverings, along with having the custom mortar produced.
July activities will be characterized by those window coverings being installed after the window surrounds have been repaired. Also, a great deal of lime mortar will be repointed into the mortar joints on the front and rear of the structure.
Parishioners will notice a man-lift at the front of the church beginning July 5; we use this crane-like equipment to access areas of the front façade which could not have scaffold erected for access. We anticipate completing the front and rear façades by the end of July.
We are always available to answer any and all questions about this particular restoration and historic preservation in general. Thank you for trusting Durable Restoration with this special and unique project!
Julie Helene Butler
Project Manager – Durable Restoration