Gannon Pontifical Center, Former First Presbyterian Church, Comes Down in Dramatic Fashion
Demolition started last week, but on Monday the rest of the Gannon University Pontifical Center, site of Erie's First Presbyterian Church, came tumbling down in dramatic fashion.
Apparently there was more than spiritual power flowing through the property, home to Protestant and Catholic worshipers alike. Directly above the corner of 5th and Peach are key wires feeding the Erie power grid. So before the demolition of the iconic red brick steeple, Penelec crews had to cut power to the block and be on stand-by for safety.
Because of all the planning, university officials said everything went just as they hoped it would. "Yes, exactly to plan," said Doug Outhout, Gannon Chief Marketing/Communications Officer. "Knocking out the supports that were underneath, and pushing it from the top allowed it to collapse right into the basement of the old building."
Gannon University leadership determined that the Pontifical Center Building, and the former Student Services Center on East 5th Street have outlived their usefulness. However, the university is making great efforts to save the Gannon Chapel by addressing an old gas well beneath it that has been seeping.
With the bulk of the oldest building taken down, a drilling rig will now have room to move onto the site. The rig will then enter the worship space through a hole carved out in the north side wall, and drill down through the floor to cap the well.
Outhout said they've taken every precaution to save the one building they want to save, the former sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church. It has served as the Gannon Chapel for about 40 years, after the Presbyterians sold them the property.
Gannon revamped the worship space installing custom stained glass windows, considered works of art. "We’ve been you know assessing the fragility of all the stained glass windows, we don’t expect there to be any vibrations inside the building," Outhout said. "We’ve been building up support of the floor where the rig is going to be parked for the past couple of weeks, so we think that with the hole now in the side we’ve done everything that can be possibly done to keep the building very stable as we go about the next piece of this project."
The rig is expected to arrive soon, with drilling to begin in the next couple of days. Work to cap the well could take anywhere from 6 days to 6 weeks. Gannon officials said they won't really know until the job gets underway. By December they hope to be able to close the hole in the side of the chapel, and seal it up for winter.