Retrofitted St. Dunstan's Basilica doors reinstalled by students

After three months of retrofitting, Holland College students reinstalled the set of main doors to St. Dunstan's Basilica in Charlottetown.

It took a bit longer than the expected six weeks but the snags were all a part of the learning for the heritage retrofit carpentry students.

The main doors had come down in January. Once the layers were peeled back there were some surprises.

"It's been a crazy experience. We pulled them apart not quite sure what we we're going to find," said student Sam Gallant.

"Found a lot of rotten stuff but a lot of really good wood as well so it was really cool to be able to piece it back together and to see the whole process."

Natalia Goodwin/CBC
Natalia Goodwin/CBC

Parts of the doors had been restored in the past, but other elements were original to when they were first installed 100 years ago.

"Seeing how they fitted together and just putting the new with the old," said student Tyler Holmes.

"We had to make a few new parts for these doors like the inner core and stuff … that was really fun to see how everything was going to fit back together."

The students said the panels with ornate detailing were a challenge, and they didn't want to replace them because some of them were originals. So a wood turner came to the class and helped recreate the missing pieces.

Natalia Goodwin/CBC
Natalia Goodwin/CBC

The reinstall on Friday was a learning experience as they hit a couple of snags.

"We found out when we got here that the door jam had sunk a bit so we had to jack it up and try to support it so it will stay secure for a while," said Gallant. "One of the doors didn't quite line up with the hinges so we had to trim it down a bit to make it fit."

Their teachers said they used the best products available so the doors should last at least another 150 years.

Natalia Goodwin/CBC
Natalia Goodwin/CBC

That means the work by the students will be admired for a long time.

"It's a really cool feeling ... just pieces that are going to be in Charlottetown for quite a while and that people do come and visit these places specifically," said Gallant. "To be able to point at it and say I helped … remake and fix up the doors."

Now that the main set of doors are restored, the staff at the college are looking ahead to the other two sets at the basilica.

Other doors to be restored

"It's just nice to see that you can see your work in those doors. and every time you walk by now you can say, OK we did those doors," said Holmes.

"And then you can see the ones beside them and say 'well, they need a little bit of work.'"

Those doors will most likely be done over the next two school years — giving even more students of the one-year program an opportunity to learn.

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