Our next project was the bell tower. We again had Rice Brothers jack up another wall, this time, the front, or south, wall along with the attached bell tower. We then poured a new cast-in-place concrete foundation for the bell tower, replacing the original bell tower foundation of rocks. While the south wall was jacked up we replaced the timber mud sill with a concrete grade beam as we had done on the east wall. At this point we had finished with the important work on the “rescue” phase and we could start on the “restoration” phase.
After the Sacramento Diocese ceased maintenance on the building there were several attempts by local groups to arrest further deterioration. Some work was done prior to the creation of SCRFI, but the efforts could not be sustained.
To the original SCRFI board, the building showed signs of imminent collapse that would make restoration either impossible or, at the least very difficult. Our assessment was that water damage from a leaking roof was the principal problem, but simply constructing a new roof on the existing structure was not so simple. Not only had serious damage occurred to the floor, pews, and interior furnishings, but the east wall of the building had subsided as a result of the water damage to the sill plate and the building was out of plumb.
With the east wall of the church jacked up and the building reasonably level and plumb, bids for a new roof were solicited in 2003. Only one bid was received. After a desperate campaign to obtain funding, a new roof was installed later that year. Then, with the wall still supported by jacks, we started on the foundation.
Prolonged periods of being wet, as a result of a leaking roof, left the timber sill plate and the bottom ends of most of the studs severely rotted along the east wall. The challenge was to install a new sill plate and repair the studs. But, as if that was not enough, the 130-year-old foundation was capable of resisting gravity loads but was judged by geotechnical engineers as being incapable of handling lateral loads from high winds or earthquakes.
After a lot of thought we came up with a scheme to utilize the existing rock wall foundation to carry the weight of the building. A new reinforced concrete beam would replace the rotted sill plate and would transfer lateral loads to the corners of the building. New timber would be spliced onto the existing studs and securely attached to the top of the new concrete beam. This solution was not expensive and, best of all, could be accomplished in short (20-foot long) sections.
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By the summer of last 2006 we had installed two 20-foot sections of the concrete beam, with Stewart Smith and Rodney Ivie doing most of the work, but we were unable to continue doing the work ourselves. And until the foundation was finished, Rice Brothers House Movers would not be able to remove their jacks and cribbing to use on other projects. Joe Rice, always patient and helpful, suggested we call Ted Holmes, a Yuba City contractor.
Fortunately Ted was able to find some time between his other jobs to help us finish the foundation on the entire east wall. With the jacks and cribbing removed the building was once again resting on its foundation. Rodney Ivie and Steve Winchell finished the stud re-attachments and replaced the east wall siding.
When SCRFI was formed in 1998 it was apparent that the Church of the Immaculate Conception must first be rescued before any restoration could begin. The following paragraphs describe how we have saved this historic building, how we have moved from revival to restoration, and our plans for future restoration.