Just a few weeks after completing their post-East Coast Earthquake exterior survey of the Washington Monument, members of Chicago-based Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates’ Difficult Access Team (DAT) are now performing a similar high-flying examination of the Washington National Cathedral.


The 83,000-sq ft hilltop English Gothic-style Cathedral, completed in 1990 after an 83-year phased construction process, didn’t match the Monument’s media coverage following the August 23 5.8M earthquake, centered approximately 85 miles away in Mineral, Va.

However, the building appears to have sustained significantly more damage. 

Sculpted finials were shaken loose from three of the four spires topping the Cathedral’s 300-foot Central Tower, while the fourth was knocked out of alignment. Cracks have also been discovered in several other carved figures, some of the older flying buttresses.

Adding insult to the Cathedral’s earthquake injuries, a tower crane set up to assist with stabilizing loose stone collapsed atop adjacent cars and buildings in early September. No injuries were reported, and the fall caused no additional damage to the Cathedral.

With a new crane safely in place, workers have since removed hundreds of loose pieces of limestone, including a two-ton piece of pinnacle that was removed by crane on October 13.

The DAT’s inspection, similar to that performed on the Washington Monument, will help the Cathedral get a better handle on the specific needs involved with repairing the earthquake damage, including replacing the many pieces of exquisite stonework. The Cathedral estimates that the process, which could take a decade or more, will cost at least $25 million.

Closed to the public since the earthquake, the Cathedral has been deemed safe for public access. It will resume hosting services and other events on November 12.