The Old Madeleine Parish Church in northeast Portland received the 2021 DeMuro Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation, Reuse and Revitalization.
Awarded by Restore Oregon in a brief meeting on September 21, the award is the state’s highest honor for the reuse, preservation and revitalization of architectural and cultural sites. Restore Oregon provides education and advocacy on behalf of the state’s historic spaces.
âThis award recognizes the community-wide effort involved in the resurrection of our old church,â said Father Mike Biewend, pastor of La Madeleine. “It is truly wonderful to see our historic church come to life for generations to come, and I hope it can serve as an example for other parishes who are stewards of old historic buildings on their campuses.”
Completed in September 2019, the project is the result of a massive effort by the Madeleine community to resuscitate the original church of 1911, which fell into disrepair after the current church was built in 1955.
Father Biewend recalled his first visit to the parish grounds after being appointed pastor in 2008. âWhen I entered the old church, my heart sank,â he recalls. “Here was this beautiful sacred space which was crumbling and relegated to service as nothing more than an attic.”
The first seed of the restoration began with the donation on Christmas Eve 2011 from a parishioner, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in the structure. Shortly thereafter, the parish enlisted the services of Carleton Hart Architecture to begin planning and design for the restoration.
A three-year, $ 3.9 million fundraising campaign began in 2017, and more than 550 donors and supporters, supported by a $ 1 million challenge grant from the Hedinger Family Foundation, stepped forward to fully fund the project.
Construction was completed in the summer of 2019 by general contractor H&A Construction, with the once-dilapidated old church transformed into a sacred space for prayer, learning, entertainment, and community use. In addition to bringing the 110-year-old building up to current safety codes through structural improvements, reconstructed and restored stair access, and improved fire suppression, a number of modern amenities such as a new elevator, high efficiency heating and cooling, upgraded electrical installations, efficient lighting and advanced sound have been added.
âMuch of the work that has been done is invisible, in order to maintain the historic character of the building,â said Father Biewend. “I really think any of the original parishioners who built this parish could come in here and instantly feel at home.”
The designers, who included George Covin of House of George Interior Design, took inspiration from the original building’s design elements. For example, they added gold leaf crosses and borders behind the altar area, inspired by the restored lighting fixtures and features of the original 1912 altar. An applied mural , âLet the children come to me,â was installed on the east wall opposite the altar.
The wood floors have been restored to their original condition and all the stained glass windows in the building – the 63 panes – have been removed, dismantled, cleaned, repaired and sealed. Parishioners had the option of adopting a window and making a donation to cover catering costs. All the shutters were quickly torn off.
The project was submitted for review by Carleton Hart Architecture, who provided architectural and construction management services for the project.
Hammons is director of communications for the parish and the school of Madeleine and parish ambassador for the Sentinel.