2011 quake repairs at National Cathedral may take another 10 years

Repairs to the National Cathedral have gone well but it has taken 10 years to make progress. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
Head Stone Mason Joe Alonso said the only way you can tell what’s an original piece and what’s being repaired is by the color of the stone. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
The cathedral was damaged by an earthquake in 2011. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
Head Stone Mason Joe Alonzo explains the remaining repairs. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
(WTOP/Kyle Cooper)

In 2011, a rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the D.C. region, damaging the Washington National Cathedral. Ten years later, repairs are slowly being done but it may be another 10 years before all damages are fixed.

Washington National Cathedral Head Stone Mason Joe Alonso told WTOP that so far, the repairs have gone well. The only way you can tell what’s an original piece and what’s being repaired is by the color of the stone. In total, $15 million in repairs have been completed outside and inside the building.

“The sections that we’ve repaired, it’s wonderful to see when you step out there,” Alonso said. “Now, when you look at the beautiful and clean, all restored pieces put back together … it’s a wonderful feeling.”

It has taken a long time to make repairs for two reasons: One, the work is intricate, with much of it done by hand. Secondly, it is expensive. It will take another $17 million to finish all the repairs.

However, it could have been worse, Alonzo said. Had the earthquake kept shaking the cathedral, for another two or three seconds, the whole structure would have come down like “a Jenga game.”

The cathedral has been raising money for years to pay for the repairs, including selling a LEGO replica of the church. Alonzo said once more money is raised, the faster the job could get done.

“All that pile of stone that you see on the ground, I’d love to get that back up there,” Alonzo said.

Those interested in making a donation to help complete the repairs can do so online on the cathedral’s website.

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WTOP’s José Umaña contributed to this story.

Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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