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BOYLE HEIGHTS : St. Mary's to Reopen as Repairs Wrap Up

July 10, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

St. Mary's Catholic Church, which has been closed to parishioners since the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake, will reopen, possibly as soon as next weekend, after $250,000 in cosmetic repairs are completed.

Scaffolding now reaches to the top of the arched ceiling of the church, which was built in 1926, as workers plaster over cracks, paint over damage and rebuild some of the intricate moldings that fell during the earthquake.

Parishioners have endured months of services in cramped, inelegant quarters in the church hall, but they will be treated to a special celebration when the church reopens, said Father Avelino Lorenzo.

"People want to come back," Lorenzo said, adding that some parishioners have been going to other churches while the restoration work is being done. "They will come back because they love the church."

With tapered columns inside and out, the church has Oriental and Corinthian influences similar to other structures built in Los Angeles in the late 1920s, said restorer Eddie Sosa of United Staff and Stone Co. of Los Angeles. He has created new molds from pieces of moldings that fell from columns and corners of the church in the quake.

On June 7, workers began building eight stages of scaffolding with six feet between each stage. It reaches through the middle aisle and around each wall to give workers access to broken plaster, cracks and other damage.

Statues, paintings, floors and the intricate lighting fixtures inside have been covered with protective plastic sheets.

Sosa, who worked on the retrofitting and restoration of St. Mary's after the Whittier-Narrows earthquake in 1987, is also doing restoration work on churches in Pasadena and other parts of Los Angeles.

"This church is so old it seems we do restoration over and over," Sosa said. "But this church is handling it better than some of the older churches in Pasadena."

Because the church had undergone a two-year, $1-million retrofit after the Whittier-Narrows quake, it resisted structural harm and suffered only cosmetic damage this time, said Robert Tabarango, who supervises work done by Driver Eddy, a general contractor from Santa Fe Springs.

"It did what it's supposed to do," Tabarango said.

More extensive work will need to be done on the church steeple, which sustained deep cracks. That work should be completed by the end of August, Lorenzo said.

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