The one question many people have is just how much damage was done to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist during Tuesday's fire. WTOC spoke with one of the people involved in the cathedral's restoration, Bernard Gruenke. He's with the restoration company that restored the entire interior and the stained glass windows inside the cathedral a few years back. He tells us there's more damage than we might expect., and it could be quite costly.
From a simple glance, one might guess only a few things were severely damaged during the fire, the pulpit, the bishop's chair and a column located in the front of the sanctuary being the most obvious. But according to expert Gruenke, there's more than meets the eye. "Everybody focuses on where the fire was and that's obvious that it has to be restored or replicated, but that's not the costly part," he said. "The costly part is the smoke rising, and as it rises it deposits carbon and soot on the ceiling."
Using a sponge and a special chemical solution, Gruenke tested just how much soot and smoke damage there is. He says it's everywhere, including the statues, the murals and even the ceiling some 65 to 70 feet up. "It's going to take someone to clean the whole cathedral," he said.
Gruenke says it will be a very time-consuming and costly project. "I would say it's somewhere between 250 and 500 thousand dollars, probably close to the high side."
Beside wiping everything down, Gruenke says parts of the ceiling may also have to be painted again. He says that's the most difficult part of restoring. All in all, Gruenke says Savannahians are fortunate. He has restored five buildings from fire damage and he says he has seen much worse.