Homes come in many sizes and shapes. They protect us from the elements and are the places of great moments and memories of family life. Your home is likely a sanctuary of peace, a place where you can feel at ease and comfortable.
Since 1923, the building known as ‘The Gables’ has been home for the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Locals identified the structure by its various gable ends, which were common in Europe at that time. Architecturally, the building is stunning with delicate and visually pleasing rooflines and gables. Beneath the beautiful exterior is an incredibly strong foundation and durable, stout framing with more life still in them. In some places, the outer walls are several feet thick. The framework inside the walls is handmade, pieced timbers of great strength. The wise man in Matthew 7 is told to build his house on the solid rock of the Lord. RPTS does so both theologically and with its building, providing a solid foundation on all fronts.
All of this is why it makes good sense to remodel and restore the building versus building anew somewhere else; it is plain, good stewardship. To that end, the Seminary Board of Trustees decided to launch a $3 million capital campaign, ‘Save the Gables’. The campaign is intended to run through the end of June 2018. Goals include the restoration and renovation of the original roof, gables, and the kitchen and basement areas. Here are some of the details of the program:
The Gables – The gables have given this building its historic name. Hand carved and assembled, these decorative pieces are wonderful examples of the skilled craftsmanship that has gone into every nook and cranny of the building. In the summer of 2015, some restorative work was planned on one of the gables, and it was discovered that the gables were seriously deteriorating and in need of extensive restoration, not an inexpensive challenge! Mouldings such as those used in the original construction of the building are no longer available, you can’t just walk into a DIY store and find replacement materials. Working with a well-known and skilled mill in Pittsburgh, a plan was devised to reconstruct the gables utilizing modern composite materials which would exceed the lifespan of the original wood. These intricate pieces are cut by computer and assembled in multiple layers for installation. With fresh paint on a regular basis, these new gable ends should last 100+ years.
The Roof – Installed in the late 1890s, the original slate roof has protected the building from Pittsburgh’s rain, snow, and ice for about 120 years with only a few minor repairs needed in the past. Still in decent shape, the roof is reaching the end of its useful lifespan. Replacing the roof now, before significant damage and leaking occurs, is good stewardship as the expense of repairing further damage is prevented. The replacement for the roof is slate which should last another 125 to 150 years. New gutters and valleys will be installed along with an upgrade to the forty plus year-old flat roof covering the library annex.
The Kitchen – Just like your home, the kitchen at RPTS is one of the major hubs of fellowship. Students linger over cups of coffee as the professors speak of their real-life experiences in ministry, expanding upon classroom lectures, showing how theological concepts come to life in the real world of the local church. Located in the basement, the kitchen is quite dated and inefficient, for instance, the ovens run far below their temperature settings requiring extra time in cooking. Counter and storage space is inadequate and the makeshift dishwasher needs to be replaced with something more robust.
The dining area is dark, uninviting and the placement of walls hinders a large gathering of students in one place to fellowship. Divided into three separate areas, a rearranging of walls would allow for better use of the space, especially for large gatherings such as FEAST (Friends Eating At Seminary Tables), a regular gathering of students, faculty, and staff for an evening meal. A redesigned multi-purpose room would provide flexibility for ministry. The Theological Foundations for Youth (TFY) uses the Seminary facility for two weeks every summer – the current space is very tight for the 50 some participants to all to eat meals together. Renovation will help to overcome these challenges.
RPTS President, Dr. Jerry O’Neill, notes, “The ‘Save the Gables’ campaign is important only because of what is housed therein. The main thing is the mission of the Seminary to train future pastors and others for effective service in Christ’s Kingdom.” Michael LeFebvre, President of the Board of Trustees ponders, “If walls could talk, it would be remarkable to review the countless hours of instruction heard by these rooms.”
Mark Sampson, Chief Administrative Officer @ RPTS
Photo Credits: Schneider Family Photography and Mark Sampson