Caring for our Historic Basilica Buildings May 9, 2024

Did you know that 3 of our campus buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places?

Our beautiful Basilica, opened for its first Mass in 1914, is listed of course, as is our Basilica School Building – which welcomed its first students in 1913, and the Rectory which opened in 1926.

Another unique historical note is that The Basilica of Saint Mary was the first Catholic church in the United States to be named a Basilica by Pope Pius XI. We will celebrate our 100th anniversary of that honor on December 8, 2026.

Some of the items we take for granted in The Basilica are original – our floors and pews for example are in serious need of repair. The beautiful stained glass windows were installed in 1926, and while some minor repairs were done in the 1960s, all but some of these windows are also in serious need of repair.

This past year has been one of evaluations and assessments at The Basilica. We are starting to get assessment reports back on the status of the church. As you might imagine, the news is mixed. From one year’s worth of data from temperature and humidity monitors in the church, we are learning that the interior is finally starting to dry out – which is very good news. And while challenging, a direct result of that drying out is the crumbling plaster, and the need for netting to catch falling plaster.

A surprise discovery is that in a previous 1950s restoration, original beautiful stenciling was overpainted, and unfortunately can no longer be seen. But with only a single layer of paint over this detailing, experts from one of our restoration consultants, Evergreene Architectural Arts, believe this distinctive original decoration can be restored. New lighting technologies will help us all be able to enjoy this decorative painting.

During work last year on the church bell towers, a more challenging find was that roof drains installed in the early 1990s were deteriorating, failing, and allowing moisture into the church. When the bell tower drain was replaced and flood tested, moisture incursion was immediately stopped. We have 26 roof drains to replace. Our goal is to raise the funds to replace all these failing drains during this summer season.

A team of volunteers and contractors are meeting weekly to develop a scope and timeline for future restoration and repair work on the exterior and interior of the church. This plan is being developed and costs are being documented, project by project, and year by year.

As plans are being prepared, The Basilica Landmark continues to seek funding for this important stage of planning. Later this summer, a small sample mockup will be restored in the southeast corner of The Basilica’s interior. This work will allow the restorers to evaluate their restoration techniques and finalize the project costs.

This weekend, we will be having a second collection to support the work led by The Basilica Landmark. Please help us care for our beautiful spiritual home.

With your help, we can continue planning and move on to the critical projects that will keep moisture out of the building and take steps toward a restoration of the interior including stone cleaning, plaster repairs, and restoration and re-leading the stained glass as needed, that tells the story of Mary’s life so beautifully.

Terri Ashmore
Managing Director of Mission Advancement
The Basilica of Saint Mary
Executive Director of The Basilica Landmark


The Basilica Landmark is hard at work to make improvements on our campus, working to steward our buildings and help The Basilica serve our community. Your generous gifts today will fund major projects that are being planned to stabilize and repair exterior masonry to stop the water damage visible throughout The Basilica’s interior.

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Questions? Contact our Mission Advancement Team at 612.317.3407.