Grace Episcopal Church is an early example of Gothic Revival work located on Wentworth Street in Charleston, South Carolina. The building, designed by local architect Edward Brickell White, and was completed in 1848. The church and tower, constructed of load bearing brick masonry, sustained significant damage in the Great Earthquake of 1886 and consequently was proposed to be demolished. Despite this recommendation, John Devereux, an architect attached to the board of engineers, was hired by the vestry to oversee the preservation of the church. Since 1886, other major work to the church building has included several interior renovations and repair of damage from 1989’s Hurricane Hugo. In 2001 evidence was found of ongoing structural movement in the church tower, there was concern that potential vibrations caused by driving piles for a new parish hall in close proximity to the historic church would cause structural damage and possibly catastrophic failure. What followed this initial findings of structural distress were investigations and analyses of the tower and clerestory walls, which led to a multiphased construction project. From the investigations, the following findings were recorded:
- Spreading and cracking of the arches of the tower was a major life safety concern and this damage was reported as ongoing and getting worse.
- There was notable deterioration and loss of end bearing of the wooden timbers in the tower, especially those timbers that supported the spire.
- There was measured differential settlement as a result of the earthquake of 1886 and continued settlement was occurring.
- The bond timbers supporting both the side aisle ceiling framing and the side aisle roof framing were pulling out of the clerestory walls.
- The clerestory walls were not well stabilized by the tower.
- The clerestory walls had spread at their tops.
The work that included structural strengthening of the tower was started in June 2007 and was completed at the end of the summer of 2010.
- Injection grouting of the masonry walls of the tower to fill voids created by movement and disintegrating mortar,
- Stitching of the masonry walls of the tower,
- The installation of very high strength stainless steel rods to tie the tower together horizontally and to prevent further spreading and cracking of the tower arches,
- The installation of similar vertical rods to act as tie‐downs,
- And structural member repairs to the framing that supports the spire.
Other work that was completed as a part of the project, included the removal of the elastomeric coating and of failing stucco. New stucco was applied and rescored. Also design for a new vestibulum was completed which included design of mahogany double doors.
Currently, both the overall movement of the tower and the opening and closing of cracks in the tower and the clerestory walls are monitored by survey and by an electronic crack monitoring system. There are futures plans for additional phases of construction for improving the tower foundation and strengthening the clerestory walls.
- Keeping the church in full operation during the construction.
- Working with completely unrealistic budget.
- Working with a client that did not really believe that the project was as critical as it was.