Haselden works on many different types of construction: new builds, additions, renovations, tenant build-outs . . . you name it! One subset of those categories is historic renovations. Even properties that aren’t on historic registries have beautiful details worth preserving and owners that want to safeguard their historical heritage. Is working on a historic project different for us and our clients even when it’s not a registered project? It sure is! Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at five Haselden projects with historic components and the challenges we’ve encountered.

Case Study #1:

Holy Ghost Catholic Church

Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Denver is largely a cosmetic refurbishment project which is currently underway by our On-Call team. Haselden’s scope includes removing/restoring/reinstalling all exterior doors; installing new floor closers; pressure-washing the building exterior; replacing terra cotta at the base of building and on planters; adding a snowmelt system to the main office stairs and replacing the tiles; and electrical work including adding new lighting in the nave and replacing the main chandelier in the sanctuary.

What’s so complicated about that? One of the most onerous tasks in our scope was actually the doors. The doors are rail and stile configuration and much of the wood had rotted and the glue had failed. Restoring the doors involved

completely dismantling them, replacing the rotten wood, and rebuilding them. But replacing 75 year old wood isn’t as easy as it sounds. Matching the grain is important in maintaining the integrity of the aesthetics, and because wood grown 10 decades ago was grown at a slower rate than the same species grown today, the grain from the older wood is tighter. Tracking down wood that would seamlessly integrate with the existing wood of the doors entailed intensive searching for several weeks. Seeing the results, it’s easy to agree it was worth the effort – they turned out beautifully!

Case Study #2:

St. John Vianney Theological Seminary

St. John Vianney is another project completed by our On-Call team. The rich history of the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary campus dates back to 1908. Outgrown just 15 years after it opened, the original building was supplemented with several other buildings designed by well-known Denver architect Jules J.B. Benedict. Haselden renovated several of these buildings, including the seminary dorms (c. 1930s), the library (c. 1950s), and the chapel (c. 1930s). The goal of the renovation was to make it more comfortable for the occupants with modern systems, while at the same time retaining historic aesthetics.

Prior to the renovation, the only cooling that existed for the chapel was a fan in the bell tower that pulled in outside air. During the 100° days of Denver summers, this was certainly not adequate, and the Archdiocese of Denver wanted to add a chilled-water mechanical system to the chapel. However, they did not want to place the unit outside of the chapel for aesthetic reasons. Because the chapel is an 85-year-old, unreinforced masonry structure, there were limitations as to how construction could proceed—structural penetrations through a building this fragile required excessive care. Haselden also wanted to use as much of the existing chases and raceways as possible so the architecture of the existing building was not negatively impacted. To meet these conditions, Haselden installed the chilled-water mechanical unit inside the tower of the chapel. The unit (18 feet tall and 24,000 lbs) had to be manufactured not only to fit in the bell tower (approximately 21’ square), but also to allow the individual pieces to fit through the bell tower’s arches—approximately 42” wide and 78” high. The pieces were brought into the tower individually, lowered down approximately 70 feet, and assembled inside the tower. To make this process feasible, Haselden engineered a hoisting system: we put in a trolley system and used an existing substructure (intended for a bell system but not utilized) to support it. The structural integrity of the concrete floor where the unit was to be placed was unclear, so Haselden installed new structural steel and poured a second floor over the first to ensure the strength.


In addition to the new cooling system, all new circuitry was installed throughout the chapel and the original light fixtures were retrofitted with LEDs. This assisted with energy conservation while keeping the historic fixtures intact.

The seminary portion of the project comprised both electrical work and exterior work. The electrical work included an old vault controlled by Xcel that contained high-voltage transformers—the kind that would normally be seen atop high power poles. Safety concerns made replacing this system a necessity. Haselden demolished the slab-on-grade of the old vault, then lowered the floor level to provide the required clearances for the new switchgear. Xcel installed a new pad-mounted transformer outside the old vault room. Because of the age and structure of the buildings, Haselden worked closely with the structural engineers to determine where it was safe to punch holes in the foundation to run the new service. In addition to the power project, Haselden also retrofitted approximately 300 doors and windows. Staying true to the historic façade of the seminary, we used custom aluminum window units to match the aesthetics of the originals, but at the same time provide more energy efficiency.

The final result is a stunning transformation – stunning because although the buildings now have all the comforts of the times, anyone looking at the buildings would think they had never been touched.

Look for next week’s blog post which will continue with a look at three more historic projects Haselden has worked on!