The Studios Of Potente
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Interior Renovation
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St. Patrick Catholic Church

St. Patrick Catholic Church, Racine, WI is a nationally known landmark building designed in 1924 by the Chicago architect Barry Byrne (1883-1967). The structure had fallen on hard times and needed extensive remediation work as well as renovation, requiring complete exterior and interior restoration. The interior had been modified from its original floor plan after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, much to its detriment.

The owner retained Rossi Construction Co, Inc. to rebuild the terra cotta finials, repair the roof and re-point the masonry. After this work had been completed Rossi and the owner engaged Studios of Potente, Inc. to collaborate on a plan to renew the interior.

The objective was to restore as many of the original architectural elements as possible while maintaining the floor plan requirements of a modern Roman Catholic worship space. While a screen separation, constructed by The Studios of Potente furniture shop, between the newly recovered sacristy and the sanctuary could reproduce the spirit of the original masonry partition, the original east-facing fixed altar of sacrifice was no longer ritually correct. The owner chose to use his existing freestanding wooden altar and ambo, moved forward on the original platform. The tabernacle was moved to the center of the new screen from a side altar location.

The building had no toilet facilities and no parents’ room – these were to be created at the rear of the nave by extending the balconies, reproducing the original balcony facades to do so. Potente reproduced the original Byrne design motifs in the stained glass panels added to complete the rear wall elevations. The votive area dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe was shifted to a new space at the rear of the nave.

The carpeting was removed entirely and the floors were restored to their original terrazzo material and a ramp was added to the sanctuary to make it accessible. Granite tile in a contrasting color was used as infill at places such as the former location of the communion railing and the surface of the newly constructed handicapped ramp.

Potente proposed a lighting program that included perimeter valance lighting and replacement of the existing downlights with new quartz lighting. The original Byrne copper sconces were restored and rewired and the station accent lighting was updated.
Reproduction prairie style lighting fixtures were added under the balcony and in the gathering space at the entrance. All of the lighting is now controlled by a new digital dimming device.

The ceiling, covered with cellotex acoustical tile in the late 1940’s, was stripped of this tile and replastered with a dryvit system that closely matched the original swirled plaster surface of the Byrne design. This was then painted in cream colors using a couple of different tones to highlight the architectural detailing. The new sound system speakers were painted to match the general tones of the plaster ceiling.

Despite that fact that a generous donor appeared to cover the cost of the majority of the work, it was impossible to completely restore the interior, leaving the pews and the floor under the pews, the liturgical furniture and the replacement of the exterior storm glass for another day.