As part of St. V’s celebration of the 175th anniversary of the laying of its cornerstone, we put on display this now-restored model of the church, dating from the 1930s, at all Masses this weekend (May 23-24).
The work was done by parishioner Tom Hyatt, a VP at MICA. The reason the model was built or who made it is unknown; however it has been displayed every Christmas season in our window decorations. Time had taken its toll on the cardboard model, , as this “before” picture clearly demonstrates, and Tom graciously agreed to restore it. Come see the “after pictures” in person!
I was asked by Barbara Hodnett if I would be willing to work on repairing some of the models used at Christmas time. I agreed that I would, and the one that was most in need of repair (and the most interesting to me) was the model of the church. Since in my own artwork I have been making wooden models for the past 4 or 5 years, it seemed natural for me to take this on.
It was surprising to me that the church model (which I was told by Barbara was made sometime on the 30’s) was made entirely of paper and cardboard. Except for a portion of the base, there was no wood used in the making. This made it very fragile. Also, there were no reinforced corners or any other attempts to construct strong joins – just mostly edges butted against each other and glued. On the other hand, I was very impressed with the care the creator took and how skilled he/she was in cutting and fastening all of the elements together. Lots of clever things were done to make the piece work as a good replica.
I probably put 40-50 hours into repairing it since almost everything had to be rebuilt, reinforced, repainted, re-glued. In some cases, I just could not make repairs. This was mostly true with the windows in the tower and to some extent with the major windows on each side of the building. There was no way to get into the tower to repair those windows and, short of replacing all of the delicate semi-transparent paper used on the side windows, there was no way to really repair them. The roof was bowed and sagging, so I had to create a support underneath and gradually flatten out the roof. The entire back section of the building had come apart so I had to rebuild that. I made a new platform for the entire building to add support for the steps and back building which had no support at all underneath originally. I had to remake the little circular tent roofs for the vents, and added new cornices, made some doors and windows where they were missing and added some little stepping stones on the front to fill in where there was no longer cardboard to connect the building to the steps. The most challenging part was getting the roof to fit properly back on the church walls. And then finally, I wanted to make sure that the structure had some integrity and could be handled so I tried to shore up corners and surfaces with plywood and small wood pieces.
Thanks so much to Tom for volunteering to put his unique skills to work for St. V!