Initial Capital Campaign
The formation of the Foundation was to “save the envelope” of the Basilica. Our initial effort was a $3.5 million capital campaign, begun in 1991. The immediate concern was bringing the exterior decline to a halt. The iconic copper dome was replaced as was exterior masonry and gutter systems and related roofing incidentals. The result was the Board made a decision to never let the Basilica get into such disrepair again.
In 1997, the interior restoration project began with the Foundation raising over $2.5 million. The interior was restored beyond the glory it held in 1929, the year it was elevated to Basilica status. The pews were removed and restored as were all the multi-story stained glass windows. In each window, at least 200 pieces of glass were either repaired or replaced.
Every inch of the interior was repainted and restored. All the murals and original artworks were restored and the faux marble painting was added to raise the interior to that deserving of an italian renaissance edifice. Scaffolding filled the church as the artisans worked to restore the landmark.
Fact: the only real marble in the Basilica is the Grand Pulpit, high altar and Last Supper relief, stations of the cross above the confessionals and the three reliefs over the main entrance.
John Paul II Pavilion & Visitors Center
1998 marked the year of the John Paul II Pavilion and Visitors Center Capital Campaign. The Foundation raised over $2.7 million for the addition of the Pavilion adjacent on the west, which was completed in 2000.
The Foundation had the challenge of finding the exact exterior stone as the Basilica. To our surprise, the same quarry and vein was open in Ohio, where the original federal building in Chicago had received it’s stone. Though it added nearly a million dollars to the cost of the project, the historical significance of it can not be underestimated.
- Other projects included the construction of interior entrance shelters
- A new landmark sign on the corner of 6th Street and Lincoln Avenue
- A major dome repair at the cost of $250,000.
- In 2011, we embarked on the major repair for the Cupola to halt leaking. During driving rains, water had leaked from the Cupola down the center of the dome, dripping to the center aisle floor. The repairs on the Cupola windows at the top of the dome halted further deterioration and prevented water infiltration through the dome.
Annual preservation and restoration costs can be upwards of $300,000.
“Lighting the Way” 2012 – 2013
Interior lights were upgraded/replaced in 2012 at a cost of nearly $300,000. Outdated lighting was replaced with new energy efficient LED lighting to enhance the beauty of the interior of the Basilica. The Basilica was closing in on a critical situation with many of the interior lighting fixtures and bulbs being phased out of manufacturing.The Basilica’s much deserved exterior facade lighting project is completed with the addition of Portico, Bell Towers and Visitors Center Pavilion architectural lighting. At a cost of $250,000, driving by the Basilica on the city streets or I 94/43, one can smile at the beauty illuminated for all to see.
The Dream of an air conditioned Basilica is fulfilled
Due to the generosity of the Fotsch Family Foundation, the dream of an air conditioned Basilica was fulfilled in the summer/fall of 2012. Air conditioning allows for visitor well-being and accessibility, preservation of important artwork and architectural details, and summertime usage of the Basilica as a cultural performance venue. Read more about the air conditioning installation and other finished projects at the Basilica here.