Early observations from an interior assessment of the abandoned St. Mary’s Church suggest a positive future for the building.

Though plenty of analyzing and archiving work remains, historic preservation consultant Duane Hagerty said the building appears to be aging well.

“Initial impressions are that the building is, for its age, in relatively decent condition,” he said, prior to a public informational meeting Thursday.

Experts in historical renovation and artistic preservation have been poking around the building, which was built in 1867, creating an inventory of historically significant features. Information gathered will be compiled in a final report, which will serve as the ultimate guidebook for future renovations.

More than 20 area residents turned up for a progress report Thursday.

“Today’s my first day evaluating a pretty complex structure and form,” project architect Jeff Morton said of his time spent evaluating the interior of St. Mary’s iconic steeple. “We will be doing the same level of evaluation for the rest of the building.”

Eventually, the church, which was closed in 2010, will be renovated and transformed into a community event center. The entire campus has been targeted for an update, which will likely include educational and performance space, as well as transitional housing for women in need.

Joining Hagerty and Morton were paint expert Tony Kartsonas, of Historic Finishes LLC, and stained-glass expert Neal Vogel, of Restoric LLC.

The assessment was paid for by a $10,000 grant from the Cynthia Wood Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors.

Assessments ensure that the historic nature of the building is preserved during the transformation, Hagerty said.

“It’s important to know because when the work is done, we want to make sure we don’t adversely affect the features of the building,” he said. “The interior analysis is important because the interior is one of the most unique features of the church.”

The historic decoration probably dates back to 1912 or 1913, and has been largely preserved, even after a refurbishing in the 1950s.

“I think (the assessment is) just to get this understanding of the layers of history, the development and the changes within it,” Kartsonas said. “Within that, while we’re looking at that, (we’ll) assess the conditions, kind of provide recommendations for whatever work maybe needs to happen.”

The building’s stained-glass windows have also held up well, according to Vogel.

Most 90-plus-year-old windows have 20 to 30 cracks, according to Vogel. But most windows in St. Mary’s have fewer than 10, he said.

“They’re preserved extremely well,” Vogel said. “In fact, most of them won’t even need to be re-leaded. If anything, the stained glass will need to come out to do the work on the frames. And while they’re out, it would be good to clean them, to re-cement them and do some very minor repairs.”

As published in Dubuque Telegraph Herald. View article here.