Upham's Corner Online

St. Mary's Digs in & Repairs Collapsing Wall

Posted: June 21, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Hebrews 11:30 - By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days.

St. Mary's "Joshua Fit 'de battle of Jericho" is a well-known spiritual, created out of suffering at a time in the history of the United States when black people were enslaved and forbidden to read, write or gather in groups. Singing, while they carried out their duties, provided an emotional and spiritual outlet as well as a way to form bonds and strength.

The retaining wall on the Stoughton St side of St. Mary's Episcopal Church has had its own battle, ongoing for years - a battle with the trees and their root systems. For years the roots had been pushing out the rocks while humans made makeshift repairs using "expanding foam" to fill the voids.  Guess who was winning!

On February 16, 2011 Flavio Daveiga of Neighborhood Services conducted an Upham's Corner walk through - see photos.  One of the problems identified was the condition of the retaining walls at St. Mary's. 

Much of the masonry had loosened from the rocks, so week after week, especially with heavy rains and/or freezing temperatures, the rocks had grown looser and looser.  Over the last winter larger stones had started falling out of the wall, revealing the tree roots already grown close to the outside.

 Would the church wait until the wall collapsed, maybe bringing down the trees with it before doing anything?  Or in contrast to the heroics of Joshua, would they call in a masonry specialist who could help save the wall and save the day?

June 3 marks the celebration of St. Mary's Digging in and Repairing the Wall Day. Actuallly, it was the contractors who did that but hopefully St. Mary's paid the bill.

In conversation with the contractors, we asked about the foam and they laughed.  In broken Spanish they pointed out it has no structural properties.  How did they do the work? 
  • Remove loose rock and mortar. 
  • Remove foam, debris and cut out tree roots close to the front of the wall. 
  • Back fill large voids with mortar. 
  • Lay the stone and partial fill the mortar lines. 
  • When everything is firmly in place, point around the stones and make it look artistic.

Great Job!!

St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Look carefully and you can see the wall bulging forward
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Color enhanced to show the orange expanding foam in the voids
 
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Looks pretty unstable.  Rocks falling out.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Close-up. Large voids - rocks gone.

St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Walking by quickly, you might not notice.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Take a closer look - Top edge collapsing.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Bulge from the other direction

St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
A great place to toss the trash
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Our favorite photo - huge section of expanding foam and tree root

St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Caution!  God's soldiers at work.
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Cleaning out the heavy deterioration
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Ready for mortar backfill
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Sure, we'll pose for the camera

St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
Looks great, doesn't it?  Thank God!
St. Mary's Episcopal Church Repairs Retaining Wall
On June 19, 2011 St. Mary's parishioners gathered
to seed the lawn.  That and Holy Water . . .

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