Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.St. Teresa of Avila
One of the many things we’ve successfully navigated, so far at least, in my time at St. Jane has been the ongoing renovation and maintenance of our aging facilities. With the church building going on 100 years old in a few years it definitely needed some work. With one of the rectories being just as old and being subject to the infamous rat infestation of that cold and dread winter of ought-17, it needed some work also.
Here, to your utter horror no doubt, are some of those long-buried pics which have finally been unearthed to tell the tale of the long, drawn-out, seemingly endless saga. Be warned! They aren’t for the faint of heart! That and this post is heavy on the pictures, so it’s basically easy reading and kind of like looking at the National Geographic, or Time-Life.
It’s OK to breeze through these. They’re just pics from the renovation sagas.
Clearly things had tipped out of balance with the grease streak that showed up after a funeral one day. It was a sign from Heaven and time to dig in and make some decisions.
Many people, I learned during this process, get very upset when you have to make decisions about things. No one wants to hear “No”, but at the same time they say “Do whatever you want!” And at some point you just have to do what you have to do. Thankfully as it turns out, whatever I had to do was the right thing to do, but only because I did tons of research into finishes for antique heart pine, asked everyone in sight what they thought, and rejected every sample of finish in favor of the one everyone including me thought was not the best when we looked at the actual samples on the floor itself in favor of the one I’d researched. But looking closely and imagining the larger picture, the oil finish appeared to be, and is, the best choice. So was hiring Kieth Guy to paint the sanctuary.
Your standard antique heart pine floors were originally finished mostly with oil. The beauty of oil is that they can be redone on the fly as spots wear down. Polyurethane needs to be sanded, stripped, redone – it’s a mess. Oiled floors need to be spot cleaned, oiled here and there as needed, and then wiped down. That’s it. It takes a few hours for any spots being touched up – which is only occasional – as they need to be done. I said a wedding uptown at St. Francis, a beautiful place with fantastic lighting, and their floors had been polyurethaned a few months prior. They were already scratched and worn in many places, with little they could do about them. Loba Impact Oil is a winner.
Most everyone had said to keep the carpet as it was too involved to get rid of it all. But the harder choice was to go with the historic renovation ideas and redo the floors completely. It works.
Gladness of heart is a well-finished project, and we eventually got there – or at least to a great place to take a pause. A contentious issues was a misunderstanding that I had with several parishioners who were going to do the renovations on their own very quickly. I wasn’t clear that’s what they wanted to do and walked in one day to see this:
On the other hand, I was at the same time dealing with the rectory mess, and some family trials, and trying to line up the historic tax credit before we really started in. We worked through it all, and ended up with this:
Done, it looks very good. It was a lot of work getting it there. I’ve posted pics here and there of all the work going on behind the scenes, though the pictures of the rectory renovation have never really seen the light of day. (Maybe … they should not?) But seriously, with such an important task going on, why was I so distracted?
The Rectory renovation.
The rectory renovation had me living in a property owned by the Archdiocese several miles away – a recurring theme at St. Jane given the original rectory in 2012 was 2.5 miles away in a neighboring parish and given our current property in Bush, which is at least in the center of the Parish, that has doubled as a rectory from time to time – for a good four months or so.
Let’s take a look at that, and view these never before seen photos of that horrifying, rat filled, time amidst the renovation dramas of ought 18. (Ought 18 isn’t a term, but it should be.)
Before the Rats
We can breeze through some of these. The rectory was a charming place to live back then, it’s just never been finished. Which is one reason I’m perfectly fine with being on sabbatical because that place will be painted and have some finishing touches finally done on it, even though the world may try to fall down around our ears and heaven and earth may try to pass away. They’re not going to do that before this project is done, is all I can say.
Fr. Peter the temporary administrator breezed through the rectory recently decrying it’s state and I said “Welcome to St. Jane!” He didn’t get it. But on the other hand didn’t have to say “Yes” when the Archbishop asked him to come out of retirement and administer our amazingly complex and large parish where nothing shows up on a silver platter. Had he listened, he would have heard me say umpteen times this little rectory needs painting, some work, et al. Having lived there amidst the renovations for several years, I’m not the one to whom to complain about it.
But let’s move on. Life is short and we should be enjoying it, after all. We’re all trying to be pleasing to the Lord, and life throws us imperfections all the time. We deal with them and move on.
The kitchen was a fun place to hang. By the end of the first week of January ‘18 I had seen 14 rats in this small room, contained by a Mount Everest of glue traps.
None of them made it out alive. I’m scarred.
The den was a once-popular gathering spot for friends and parishioners. I may be an introvert, but I do enjoy the healthy art of conversation. And what is that on the TV? Almost looks like a church renovation going on. 🧐
Add to the rats that my niece had just died, and it wasn’t the time for me to be 100% invested in any renovations. Gerry Fisher, God rest his soul, was the springboard behind that leap of faith.
Ok, a few more before pics. It’s a small cottage, livable and cozy when done right.
I actually own a lot of the furniture in the little place.
This place has definitely seen some work since this snapshot. Great memories though. The pounds I gained baking cakes and breads here for the staff and the coffee group. The dishes I washed!
The little home altar was difficult to use due to its size, but it did work when I said a private Mass. The piano was great to have but we realistically needed it in St. Jane Hall, where it lives today.
Life moved on, as it inevitably does
After the rats and the discovery that the walls were open to the ground, this is what we found when we started to tear the place up.
Covered in rat traps, like a levee that successfully stemmed the tide, this fireplace had been covered over and made into a very large closet -it was the only closet in the place. (Currently, there are no closets in the place.) The room it was in was the only storage room, which successfully held several shelves filled with everything that needed storing.
The chimney had been broken off and roofed over, and the passageway around the chimney was too small to realistically leave it where it was, so it was torn up and is currently known as the pile of bricks out in the driveway. Many have threatened to take them from us, few have chosen to do so… Still they remain, awaiting a new home in a new place, in a new time.
It really wasn’t pretty. The walls had been left open to the ground, which is how the rats got into the kitchen and from there into the attic.
Steel your selves.
The place was disgusting. This was part of the reveal as the place spiraled downwards in into the fullness of renovation efforts, full swing, which was also occurring at the same time the church renovations were commencing full speed ahead in the plan that I didn’t fully realize was going to be happening as quickly as it did. It’s why I said we needed to slow down to the horror of several.
That was right under the cabinets next to the stove. There was also a pipe leaking sewer gas over by the sink. Worse pictures exist. But really… the weather is getting nice outside and must we really dredge up all the horrors of that time?
Thankfully, the nightmare was as a brief phantasm and all resolved beautifully.
This is how the kitchen ended up looking. It’s a beautiful and remarkable testament to the skill and craftmanship or Ray, our Maintenance guy, and Mike and Pat, two of our Knights of Columbus. I did see rats dancing through it in my un-euphoric recall of the infestation. And I still remember seeing a rat dance across the top of the dishwasher. I could actually handle one rat, two even. Those things multiply like rabbits though.
The cabinets are from Lilly Ann Cabinets. They have great pricing, and the work is solid as can be. The flooring is a really cool “green” flooring that’s comfortable as can be and also durable and well priced. I’ll have to look it up though. And in fact, we have more around somewhere. St. Jane or St. Joe could use some new flooring here and there.
There’s that fine line in a rectory between durability and affordability. You want it to last and be along the lines of the neighborhood and the parish in general. You also want the pricing to be realistic. The granite countertops were donated by one of our wonderful parishioners who owns a granite company, and who had this leftover. I’ll show more on that at a later point, but the color worked perfectly with everything we had going on. T
The walls were eventually painted a bluish-white that looks very good also, as it brought out the blue in the floors. Our music director at the time pointed that out and chose the color – the color Ray and I chose looked like mud. 😳
And that – Praise God – is that.
For now at least. The renovations haven’t been finished in that some rooms still need painting and the wall in the back den needs finishing. It’s livable but lacks the storage room and closet of old. And it needs some attention in finishing – which was going to be happening right now and hopefully is, but if it isn’t it well… I’m on sabbatical and in love with my little hermitage here.
To close, here are the oiled floors again. It’s all a grand work in progress, and the 100th anniversary of the Church is in 2024. Hallelujah and praise God for that!
Be well, and enjoy the day. Life is beautiful when you have the patience for it. And if there’s one thing covid lockdowns is teaching us all, slowing down and having patience are beautiful things in life.
And He, meanwhile, has made the world, in all its seasonable beauty, and given us the contemplation of it, yet of His own dealings with us, first and last, never should man gain comprehension. To enjoy his life, to make the best of it, beyond doubt this is man’s highest employment; that gift at least God has granted him, to eat and drink and see his toil rewarded.Ecc 3:11-13