Church remodel to be done this summer

The remodel of one of the oldest Catholic churches in the state is on schedule to be done this summer.

Crews will finish historical and structural work on the 19th-century St. Mary's in the Mountains church in Virginia City in August, said Nick Nicosia, church administrator.

The church likely will be rededicated Sept. 12 during the week celebrating the birth of Saint Mary, he said.

Paul Ferrari of Ferrari Shields & Associates, the engineer for the project, gave a public tour Tuesday of progress on the remodel.

Excavation is done and scaffolding is up. Remodeling will include restoring the choir loft and balcony, reinforcing the walls and roof and securing the steeple. Work started in September last year.

"It's a real jewel we're trying to preserve here," Ferrari said.

The remodel will cost $2.1 million. Nicosia said the church, part of the Diocese of Reno, has raised $1.2 million from public and private donations.

The church has to give public updates on the remodel as a condition of a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service.

Ferrari said the remodel will take innovative work to finish.

The choir loft and balcony was completely removed in the 1950s by monks who wanted a simpler building to worship in, he said.

Workers will use 15 panels that were saved and duplicate panels to restore the loft wrapping around half the church, he said.

Other work on the church will include restoring the original altar, lighting the original chandelier and repainting the ceiling its original blue color.

Nicosia said he hopes to raise enough money to refinish the gold cross on top of the 170-foot-tall church.

"I don't know how in the 1860s they built this church," he said. "It's massive."

The church was built under the direction of Bishop Patrick Manogue during the Comstock mining boom. It was rebuilt after it burned down in 1875.

Between 2,000 and 4,500 people visit the church every year, Nicosia said.

- Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

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