St. Philomena's Church Stands Up To Wind and Rain

Mason Architects conducted a moisture control study to determine why paint and other finishes were failing on St. Philomena's Church, built in Kalaupapa, Molokai in 1872 and rebuilt by Father Damien, who died before it was completed in 1889. The results of the study, done in collaboration with Architectural Conservation, Inc. and Richard Wolbers, were not what they expected but enabled them to repair the damage.

The original church was built by Brother Victor Bertrand in 1872.

Father Damien added the west nave in 1876 and then, after the church's steeple collapsed in a rainstorm, began to rebuild the main nave of masonry and wood in 1888.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, the church underwent significant repairs in the late 1980s.

But the wind-driven rains and high humidity on the Kalaupapa peninsula's east side degraded painted and plastered surfaces and deteriorated structural elements, siding, windows, and the roof.

The restoration team discovered that the problems were not caused by rising damp, as anticipated, but by the selection of coatings in the post-historic period, compounded by other sources of water infiltration.

Mason Architects directed the repair of structural damage, removed and replaced coatings on all exterior and interior surfaces, added guttering to redirect rains, and improved drainage to the site, readying St. Philomena's for festivities related to Father Damien's canonization in 2009.

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The west nave of the church, foreground, was built in 1876 by Father Damien.