May 2017: An investigation into structural damage and settling was conducted by Great Falls, Montana company Sievert & Sievert CRC, which specializes in historic architecture and structural design, regarding the potential plan of action. Read the letter below.
To the Trustees and Members of the Congregation: I would like to thank the members of the church that gave Ellen and I the insightful tour of your historic church. As life-long supporters of Montana’s heritage properties we truly appreciate this remarkable cultural and religious structure. Since our meeting, I have reviewed the nomination that placed the church on the National Register of Historic Places, absorbed the report prepared by Stelling Engineers dated July 2, 2013, and have read through other historic documents compiled, and generously shared, by Ken Robison. My conclusions parallel the observations outlined in the Stelling report based on visual observations from our brief meeting. I might suggest a slightly different priority of actions as explained below. 1. In my opinion, the greatest concern is the displacement of the East brick wall of the church. The outward bowing of the top of this wall could be related to either failure of the connections of the tension rod connections visible in the narthex, or, could be related to bearing failure of the supporting soils. 2. Since I was made aware that you have planned to re-roof the structure, I would encourage opening up small sections of the roof at the connection locations at the time that the existing roof surfacing is removed. This would permit inspection of those connections as well as attachment of the roof to the brick wall below. 3. Once they are uncovered, I recommend review of these connections in place with the goal of documenting the materials used for the connections, their condition, and their performance over time. I would voluntarily perform this inspection at no cost to your congregation once the edge of the roof is open for review. 4. A soil investigation could be done concurrently with the re-roofing project, or could be initiated after the roof has been inspected and repaired. As noted above soils could be a contributor to, or the cause of, the movement of the wall. Regardless of the conclusions regarding the connections I would recommend a soils investigation be done based on the shoring that was observed beneath the structure. It appears that shoring has been done more than once suggesting that vertical movement has been a recurring concern. Results from a soils investigation could provide the data necessary for a permanent solution to vertical displacement and could be a beneficial baseline for future stewardship of the structure. Soils data would also be useful for evaluation of the addition. Other actions, including pointing and sealing of the brick masonry, could be evaluated and prioritized in the form of a ‘Preservation Plan’ that I described when discussing the contents of a Historic Structures Report. I would also recommend that a set of field measured plans of the structure be created for continued use of your congregation. If plans were created for the 1975 renovation, they could be updated or digitized. Again, thank you for the tour. Please advise if you wish to discuss this further or wish Sievert & Sievert to assist with your preservation efforts.
Sincerely, Kenneth R. Sievert AIA; ASCE
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