AWCI's Excellence in Construction Quality Award 2015

Category: Historic Renovation

June 2015

St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
Galveston, Texas

Built in 1847, the St. Mary Cathedral Basilica is one of the oldest churches west of the Mississippi and the oldest surviving church in Galveston, Texas. Today it serves 1.5 million Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. It was named a Texas historic landmark in 1968 and a national historic landmark in 1973. In 1979, Pope John Paul II elevated St. Mary Cathedral to the status of a minor basilica.
Built with half a million bricks ordered from Belgium by its first prefect, the house of worship was magnificent—and solid. It withstood the fury of Galveston’s Great Storm of 1900. Still considered the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, the hurricane took the lives of 6,000 people and demolished 3,600 buildings—but caused only minimal damage to the Basilica.
Then, 108 years later in September 2008, Hurricane Ike blew more than 6 feet of water into the cathedral. Ike was a tropical cyclone that remains one of the costliest on record for places like Texas. And for the next five years, the once-glorious cathedral was left vacant and rotting.
In October 2013, a full restoration began with the goal of reopening by Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014. Officials also had a new perspective: how to restore the basilica’s past glory, knowing that in the future there still will be times when up to 6 feet of sea water may enter the structure.
AWCI contractor member Tobin & Rooney heeded the call.
After removing and stripping over 160 years of lime wash, gypsum plaster, lead paint and the occasional drywall mud patch, the walls were left with the original cement parge coat that remained adhered to the original 19th century brick structure. Tobin & Rooney crews patched minor cracks and dropouts to bring the substrate to a uniform and consistent surface. They also applied a veneer plaster as a basecoat and leveler through the structure. A trowel-applied finish resulted in the look of an Italian Renaissance Cathedral from products designed to be used on exteriors and in high humidity conditions.
A high water line was tooled into the plaster throughout the church approximately one foot above the highest recorded flood level. Future storms will require only cleaning and re-coating of the walls up to about 6 feet.

Tobin & Rooney, Inc., Houston, Texas

3M Construction & Home Improvement Markets Division
AMICO (Alabama Metal Industries Corp.)
ClarkDietrich Building Systems, Inc.
Grabber Texas
Hilti, Inc.
Larsen Products Corporation
Simpson Strong-Tie

ClarkDietrich Building Systems, Inc.