This summer, a once-in-a-century project is scheduled to begin at Shadyside Presbyterian Church. Our existing slate roof has reached the end of its life and is in need of a full replacement.
In 2019, after a series of roof leaks and evidence of deterioration, the Building and Grounds Committee retained a roofing consultant to provide a condition assessment of our slate roofs. The consultant’s report indicated that the roofs had between five and seven years of remaining useful life, with some areas needing to be repaired immediately. Subsequent to the consultant’s report, Building and Grounds authorized multiple repairs to address ongoing roof leaks while planning for a full-scale replacement of all slate roofs.
In late 2021, after conducting research to identify architects experienced in roof replacements and historic buildings, the church issued requests for proposals to three firms. After interviewing two firms, Building and Grounds selected MCF Architecture to lead a team of design professionals that includes a specialized roof consultant and a structural engineer. MCF has previously worked with the church on a façade restoration project and has extensive experience with roofing projects and historic buildings similar to our church.
The design team conducted a thorough analysis of the condition of our slate roofs and associated building components. This process utilized scaffolding to gain access to the underside of the roof in multiple interior locations, personnel lifts for exterior inspections, and drones equipped with high-resolution cameras, enabling detailed imagery of the roof, masonry, and other building elements in hard-to-reach locations.
The design professionals concluded that, while the building’s structural elements are in very good condition, the roof and associated accessories should be replaced and certain areas of stone masonry require repointing. In response, Building and Grounds authorized MCF to prepare construction documents in anticipation of a competitive bid process.
In its oversight of the design process, Building and Grounds has been committed to respecting the original design intent of our present church building while implementing advanced and proven building materials and techniques. Our goal is to maximize the longevity and quality of the new roof without sacrificing the character and historic nature of our beloved building. We believe this goal to be especially important considering the investment we are making in this project and the church’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Church records show that architects Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge chose a black slate for the roof of our present church. Our consultant believes that the existing slate was sourced from a quarry in Pennsylvania. The design team noted that slate from Pennsylvania is not of the highest quality and is prone to fading, which is likely why the existing slate has varying tones of brown and other colors. Respecting the original intent to source a black slate, Building and Grounds, at the recommendation of our design team, has selected a non-fading Canadian Black slate from a quarry in Quebec, Canada. This slate is classified as Grade S1 by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which is the highest quality available. We received material and shipping quotations for the Canadian Black slate from two sources vetted by our design team and secured a production spot from the best value provider to allow for timely delivery of materials once the quarry resumes operations later this spring.
For flashing materials, we have selected stainless steel, which has optimal lifespan, for concealed locations and twenty-ounce copper for exposed locations. These selections maximize value and longevity while respecting traditional aesthetics consistent with the original design.
Please be aware that the dark color of the slate and the shiny new copper, which will patina over time, will be a significant aesthetic change from the current materials. We believe this change will be an enhancement consistent with the original design intent and hope that it is well-received by all considering the historic context outlined above.
Volpatt Construction has been retained to serve as our construction manager for the roof replacement project. They were selected after receiving proposals from three firms. Some readers may recall that Volpatt was the contractor for the Sharp Atrium project. Volpatt conducted trade bidding for the roof project earlier this year. All bidders were prequalified by the project delivery team. Miller-Thomas-Gyekis, Inc. (MTG Roofing) and Mariani and Richards, Inc. have been selected for the roofing and masonry work, respectively. An electrical contractor, needed for the snow melt and lightning protection work, has not yet been selected as we may elect to bundle this scope with other planned electrical improvements.
In terms of logistics, access to the roof will require scaffolding of the building. Scaffolding is currently planned to be done in phases. The contractors are required to maintain access to key entry and exit points throughout the project, although temporary closures of certain entry points are a possibility. Advanced notice of any temporary closures will be provided to the congregation. The lawn at the drive circle will be utilized for staging of materials and equipment and will be fully restored upon completion of the work. The north entrance to the circular drive will also be closed during most of the construction period. These areas will be secured using fencing with privacy screening. The driveway to the rear parking lot will remain open for use, as will sidewalks to the nursery school entrance. Portions of the sidewalk along Westminster Place will be closed for a period of time, both for this project and to facilitate work on a separate project involving replacement of storm water lines.
The City of Pittsburgh has issued a building permit for the project. We are currently working with the slate quarry to finalize their production timeline. The current anticipated project start date is late May, but the project schedule is dependent on quarry production and shipping. Once started, the project is anticipated to take nine months.
The Building and Grounds Committee is grateful for the support we have received from staff, the Board of Trustees, and Session during the planning and design phases of this project. We would also like to extend a special thank you to Tim Engleman, who provided information pertaining to the original design of our present building. We ask for your patience as this important project moves forward in the months ahead. Thank you.
Trustee Alexander G. Dick
Co-Chair, Building and Grounds Committee
Refreshed for the Future and Reflecting on Five Decades of Publication
In 2019, the church’s mysteriously elusive yet seemingly pervasive reporter, The Church Mouse, turns fifty years young! To mark this auspicious occasion, with the first issue of the year (the February issue), the Communications Committee is pleased to introduce an updated design which features full color in its printed format for the first time; its electronic counterpart, The Mini-Mouse, began using the refreshed appearance in January.
The re-design was accomplished with the assistance of the creative team from Imagebox Productions. Imagebox is the same group responsible for the re-development of the shadysidepres.org website several years ago, and has since provided additional design support for several of the church’s printed projects.
“Origin stories” produce popular plots for book and film audiences nowadays — so, as the Mouse enters its 50th year of publication, we wondered, what is the background of the beloved rodent? We spoke to some of the Mouse’s closest associates to gain some insights about our furry and informative friend.
Compared to the full history of Shadyside Presbyterian Church, which spans more than 150 years of ministry and mission, the Mouse is a relative newcomer. Prior to the arrival of the Mouse, the narrative of the church was chronicled through The Shadyside Scribe. What might have been the impetus for the introduction of this modest mascot to the masthead of the church’s official communiqué?
The answer lies partly, of course, in the proverbial “church mouse” — a metaphorical symbol through the centuries for one who may be poor, but is perfectly positioned to observe all the goings-on in the curious building adopted as its home. This common image may have inspired the incorporation of mice into some of our church’s ornamentation. Wooden panels in the Sanctuary contain scrolling carvings of both field mice and birds nestled amongst thistles, leaves, and floral motifs.
Charles Marcus Osborn’s avian carvings may have been inspired by Psalm 84:3, but the presence of the mice invites more musing. It may not be too far-fetched to imagine that Osborn, while envisioning his designs in 1938, had in mind this Scripture: “The tree grew great and strong, its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful, its fruit abundant, and it provided food for all. The animals of the field found shade under it, the birds of the air nested in its branches, and from it all living beings were fed” (Daniel 4:11-12, emphasis added). Scholars often think Jesus is recalling this imagery when He describes the Kingdom of God in the parable of the mustard seed.
Perhaps there is even more undergirding Shadyside’s selection of the mouse as the newsletter’s titular entity than carved décor. One former editor considered that “the Mouse provides a bit of whimsy” for an institution that could, at times, seem unwittingly imposing or austere. This “whimsical” and light-hearted nature of the mouse signals to readers that we do not have to take ourselves quite so seriously all the time and might prevent us from appearing overly staid or humorless. Another aspect of our meek mouthpiece is the inference that everything reported within these pages has been “overheard” by the little ears of one who is eager to share good news — The Good News, even — rather than a self-congratulatory broadcast intended to pat ourselves on the back.
Furthermore, in a way, the Mouse’s unassuming stature grants permission to pay attention to all things, great and small. Indeed, this humble creature with a huge heart has done just that for half a century and invites us all to do the same. We hope you will continue to enjoy reading The Church Mouse to be informed about and inspired by all the good God is accomplishing in and through Shadyside Presbyterian Church.
So — can you find Shadyside’s wooden mouse carving?
Here’s a hint: The Mouse doesn’t work alone — in fact, there’s a vast network of mice — and, over the years, the mice have been chummy with the Chancel Choir choristers. You might say they’re very close. “Seek, and ye shall find!”