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Oak Park, Illinois



Reviving the Romanesque
Restoring and repainting a historic church

A finished project revitalizes the look of the interior.

There was a lot of history in this project. The Calvary Church of Oak Park, Illinois, was built in 1886 and designed by W. G. Williamson in the thenpopular Romanesque style. It was modeled after Trinity Church in Boston and completed at the cost of … $60,000. The interior was designed by Louis Millet of Healy and Millet, the same design firm responsible for the interior of Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Building and the trading room of the Chicago Stock Exchange

The church featured the following Romanesque characteristics:

  • Heavy arches and rough stone — heavy Indiana gray limestone arches contrast with the variegated, rough Wisconsin granite of the exterior walls
  • Cylindrical towers with conical caps embedded in the walling.
  • A large tower that’s a smaller version of Trinity Church’s oversized main tower.
  • Round-headed arches, often springing from clusters of short, squat columns that frame recessed entrances
  • Clay roof — a durable roof style that has been traced back as far as 3000 B.C. in China and the Middle East.

Prep in progress


The crew makes sure to protect what's below before they paint what's above.

A look at the church interior before the project.
View from the front.

The most fascinating and also the most challenging part of the project was the exterior sign, an add-on project gifted to Pierpont due to the need for a lead-certified company to carry out the work. “We found that the many layers of peeling needed to be removed and the original metal surfaces exposed, so we could properly prime and paint to achieve a long-lasting finish,” said Pierpont. “We used hand scrapers to remove over 90% of the old paint on the sign on some of the hottest days of the summer.” Due to RRP rules, the work was even hotter as the sign had to be encased in a heavy plastic barrier.

  • Repair damage to the sanctuary from some water intrusion during the roofing project.
  • Replace sections of failing plaster with drywall.
  • Obtain and utilize custom millwork to replicate old plaster “trim” around the windows.
  • Prepare and paint the sanctuary from top to bottom.

The first step in the project was to erect containment and demo failing plaster areas around the church, said company owner Aaron Moore. But as with many old buildings, there was a surprise in store. Upon removing the plaster, the team found that additional framing would be required to properly mount the new drywall. After the drywall was installed, the crew rebuilt plaster moldings where they were able to and then installed custom milled wood moldings to match in areas that had been completely ruined. The team would then patch, sand and spot prime to prepare the church for painting.

And of course, the congregation couldn’t take time off, as much as some of them might have wanted to. “The church was open and continued to hold services each weekend, so the project had to be completed in weeklong sections and cleaned up for the weekend,” said Moore. There were other challenges as well. “As mentioned above, many areas did not have the proper spacing and framing to properly secure the new drywall. Another challenge was that the floor was above a basement and could not safely hold the weight of a lift.” Due to that, they used a selection of ladders and scaffolds, making sure all safety procedures were in place

The congregation was happy to hold services surrounded by newly painted ceilings, walls and trim. APC

Key Products

  • Benjamin Moore Scuff-X