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New steps are on the way for Boise’s Catholic cathedral

The main steps into the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Boise are being replaced. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Only the upper half of the main staircase remains at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Boise as church leaders renovate the weather-damaged lower half. The stairs have been missing since June; parishioners will be entering the cathedral via the newly rebuilt Hays Street steps until Christmas.

The church is spending $900,000 to replace the concrete steps from 1993 at the Hays entrance and Eighth Street main entrance. Both sets of steps were badly cracked. The Hayes steps were replaced between November and June. Work on the main steps started in mid-June.

“The hope is to have it done by Christmas,” said Father Jerry Funke, the rector and pastor at St. John’s, sidestepping questions about holiday celebrations on the steps. “Let’s get it done first. If they finish it by Christmas, that will be a celebration itself. This is old-style stone work. It takes time.”

The upper half of the main stairs will remain as they serve as the roof for rooms underneath. But a new landing will be built over them, Funke said.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise intends to reimagine the main entrance with two sets of curving steps that pause at a midway landing and end up on a new 11-foot and 23-foot deep landing outside the main doors.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is building new steps that match the Romanesque design of the cathedral. Image courtesy of INSIGHT architects.

The existing cathedral entrance is not very large, Funke noted. The new entrance landing and midway landing are designed to encourage mingling.

“I hope it will enhance the beauty of the cathedral and be more welcoming,” Funke said.

The old main steps were narrow and straight.  The new steps are made of sandstone from Montana.

“It used to be a big pyramid you had to climb,” Funke said. “A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Hopefully, with the landings, people will pause for a moment and visit.”

The cathedral had planned to complete the steps last year, but continued design work and city permitting pushed the project to this year.

INSIGHT architects of Boise is the architect. The construction manager/general contractor is Jordan-Wilcomb Construction of Boise.

About Teya Vitu

Teya Vitu is an Idaho Business Review reporter, covering commercial real estate, construction, transportation and whatever else may intrigue him in the moment. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_TeyaVitu.