CASS Custom Architectural Sheetmetal Specialists - Detroit, MI

NEWS ARTICLE - CAM Magazine OCT 1997 - Volume 19 Number 10

Read The Full Story Below.

Old World Craftsmanship Lives On!
Saint Anne Church Repair & Restoration - Detroit, MI

A Historic National Landmark is Restored!


Historic Saint Anne Church
Detroit, MI.

Saint Anne Church Restoration - Detroit, MI
Old World Craftsmanship Continued

Originally built in 1886, Saint Anne Church is one of south Detroit’s most well-known landmarks. It is classic Gothic Revival, but suffered from extensive weatherization and deteriorization from hot summers, rainfall and cold snowy winters. The building also suffered from several piecemeal and occasionally haphazard restoration efforts.

The goal was to complete the project before the parish’s 300th anniversary in 2001. The church holds the birth records for the daughter of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the European credited for establishing Fort Detroit.

It began with a one room log cabin on July 24, 1701, according to church records.

“The major challenges of historical restorations are caused by the duplication process, according to Glenn Parvin of Custom Architectural Sheet Metal (CASS). “Because by definition, on restoration jobs duplication is critical.”

There were no engineering drawings to follow, no architectural renderings – instead, much of this work was done by intuition and careful exploration, those common tools the original craftsmen used in first creating this house of worship.

Restoration was estimated at $4 million, and wound up taking an entire year. The heights involved represented yet another challenge, with workers often up to 110 feet off the ground.

“The reconstruction of the ogee tracery presented the greatest challenge,” Parvin said. “CASS had to find a way to make a compound ogee curve. The easiest way of describing this might be to imagine an inflated  bike  tire and the  curves  created. A  tire is rounded at its  cross  section as well as its circumference. Now, think about making sheet metal do this.”

To begin making the blind arcade panels, the existing deteriorated metal was removed and brought back to the shop. The craftsmen constructed wood molds of the panels, including the candle-like insets. Next, they created wood negatives of the mold, in essence duplicating the panel design in wood.

Although the original panels were made of Zinc and galvanized steel, lead coated copper was used for the new panels.

“Lead-coated copper was used for two reasons,” Parvin said. “First, the material receives paint well. The architect, Edward D. Francis, FAIA, wanted to paint the panels a color to match the  weathered limestone trim featured on the facade. Second, it has superior workability and solderability. It’s a superior material that will stand  the test of time.”

After the molds were fabricated, the inset candle designs were made. Lead coated copper was manually hammered into place. “It was similar to work done by old world blacksmiths,” Parvin said. Pieces of lead coated topper were shaped and cut from wood patterns, then soldered into place on the panels to create a watertight design.

Historical Church Repair & Restoration, Custom Metal Fabrication by CASS Sheetmetal – Detroit, MI