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New pews for St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is a beloved icon known around the world, whether or not you are part of the Catholic community. It is currently undergoing the most extensive full-scale restoration project in its history and the Keck Group of Middletown, N.Y., which specializes in church pew restoration and other architectural work, was awarded the contract of restoring all of the church’s pews as part of the project.

The old pews have been in service since 1927. The total restoration project is expected to cost $175 million and be completed by the end of 2015.

Company founder Bob Koeck says his company does about 50 church restorations a year and that he feels very proud and fortunate to be a part of this one, which includes 300 pews altogether measuring within a range of 10 and 20 feet in length. In a competitive bidding process, Keck was able to illustrate how his company would restore the original beauty of the pews of the cathedral and enhance their original craftsmanship.

“The pews are from 1927, so they’re very old. This is all we do for a living is finish church pews. Other companies have dabbled in it occasionally, but it’s just too complicated a business. It’s not just refinishing a pew, it’s taking it out properly, transporting it properly, having a modern shop with a facility that can handle large volumes of pews, and then you have to get them back and install them properly,” says Koeck.

The company has 13 full-time employees and operates out of a 25,000-sq.-ft. shop. The project will be ongoing during the course of the next two years. Other restoration work being done includes exterior and interior masonry and plaster, cast concrete, stain glass and bronze doors. Koeck says his team is currently moving right along as it is beginning the second half of its role in the project.

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Ron Pennella, who is heading the restoration project for St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said in a statement that the Keck Group won the job as a result of a rigorous bidding process that considered experience and skill, as well as price.

“They have history with the cathedral, they’re a local vendor, and I’ve worked with them before in the past,” Pennella says. “And Bob is a great guy, but at the end of the day it all came down to their qualifications, experience, and eventually price, which is a driving issue in today’s market.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue.

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