Every panel of stained glass in the Old Church, including the iconic St. Catherine piece in its fellowship room, was removed, disassembled, restored and re-leaded. Parishioners adopted the stained-glass panes to fully cover the restoration costs. (Courtesy Pete Eckert/The Madeleine)
Every panel of stained glass in the Old Church, including the iconic St. Catherine piece in its fellowship room, was removed, disassembled, restored and re-leaded. Parishioners adopted the stained-glass panes to fully cover the restoration costs. (Courtesy Pete Eckert/The Madeleine)

The Old Church at The Madeleine Parish in Northeast Portland is a recipient of the 2021 DeMuro Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation, Reuse and Revitalization.

Bestowed by Restore Oregon during a brief gathering Sept. 21, the award is the state’s highest honor for the reuse, preservation and revitalization of architectural and cultural sites. Restore Oregon provides education and advocacy on behalf of the state’s historic spaces.

“This award recognizes the communitywide effort involved in resurrecting our Old Church,” said Father Mike Biewend, pastor of The Madeleine. “It is truly wonderful to see our historic church come back to life for the generations to come, and I hope it can serve as an example to other parishes who are stewards of historic old buildings on their campuses.”

Completed in September 2019, the project was the result of a massive effort by The Madeleine community to resurrect the original 1911 church, which had fallen into disrepair after the current church building was erected in 1955.

Father Biewend recalled first visiting the parish grounds after being assigned pastor in 2008. “When I entered the Old Church, my heart sank,” he recalled. “Here was this beautiful sacred space falling apart and relegated to service as no more than an attic.”

The first seed of the restoration began with a parishioner’s 2011 Christmas Eve donation — on the 100th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in the structure. Soon after, the parish enlisted the services of Carleton Hart Architecture to begin planning and design work on the restoration.

A three-year, $3.9 million capital campaign began in 2017, and more than 550 donors and supporters, anchored by a $1 million challenge grant from the Hedinger Family Foundation, came forward to fully fund the project.

Construction was completed in the summer of 2019 by general contractor H&A Construction, with the formerly dilapidated Old Church transformed into a sacred space for prayer, learning, performing and community use. In addition to bringing the 110-year-old building up to current safety codes through structural upgrades, rebuilt and restored stair access and upgraded fire suppression, a number of modern amenities such as a new elevator, high efficiency heating and cooling, upgraded electrical, efficient lighting, and state-of-the art sound were added. 

“So much of the work that was done is unseen, so as to retain the historic character of the building,” said Father Biewend. “I truly feel that any of the original parishioners who built this parish could walk in here and instantly feel at home.”

The designers, who included George Covin of House of George Interior Design, picked up on design cues from the original building. For instance, they added gold-leaf crosses and borders behind the altar area inspired by the restored lighting fixtures and features of the original 1912 altar. An applied mural, “Let the Children Come to Me,” was installed on the east wall, opposite the altar. 

Wood floors were restored to their original state, and every stained-glass window in the building — all 63 panes — were removed, disassembled, cleaned, repaired and re-leaded. Parishioners were given the opportunity to adopt a window and make a donation to cover the restoration cost. All panes quickly were snapped up.

The project was submitted for award consideration by Carleton Hart Architecture, which provided architectural and construction management services for the project.

Hammons is director of communications for The Madeleine Parish and School and a parish ambassador for the Sentinel.