Thanks to local preservationists and an astute developer, the former cathedral of Los Angeles was returned to its previous structural glory last week.
The former St. Vibiana Cathedral, now simply named Vibiana and converted into a concert and events hall, got its 3,500-pound cupola back Aug. 30, reported the L.A. Times. The moment ended an 11-year campaign to save the downtown landmark.
The historic cathedral was marked for demolition after it suffered structural damage in a 1994 earthquake. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles decided that repairs would cost more than the Baroque-like 1,200-seat building was worth and made plans to build a new, larger cathedral.
Local preservationists launched a campaign to save the 131-year-old church after the sudden dismantling of the cathedral bell tower on a Saturday morning in mid-1996.
Archdiocese officials insisted they were only following a city order issued the previous day that called for them to "abate" the imminent danger posed by the quake-damaged tower.
But leaders of the Los Angeles Conservancy obtained a temporary restraining order just in time to halt the demolition. By that time, a crane had lifted the 20-foot wood-framed cupola off the top of the tower.
Developer Tom Gilmore eventually purchased St. Vibiana in 1999 for $4.6 million. He has spent a reported $6 million renovating it, including $2.5 million to restore the church's 83-foot-tall bell tower. Vibiana is now a venue for special events, receptions and concerts.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles built its new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at Temple Street and Grand Avenue. The remains of St. Vibiana, which were in the former cathedral, were relocated and entombed in the new cathedral.