Jordan Kolb and his crew have spent the past month replacing the roof of Sonora’s iconic St. James Episcopal Church, one metal shingle at a time.

Each of the 5,300 shingles had to be installed individually to recreate the historic look of the church’s previous roof, which dated back to at least the 1930s.

“Everyone knows about it,” Kolb, of Soulsbyville, said of the church. “There’s not many buildings in town that are as iconic.”

The relic from Sonora’s Old West days is commonly referred to as the Red Church for the red oxide paint that was one of the few types available when it was constructed in 1860.

A group of parishioners and volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past several years on the project to replace the church’s roof, which is expected to be completed next week.

Kolb’s company, JMK Roofing Inc., received the contract for the project earlier this summer and started work on Aug. 5.

“It’s a feather in his cap, but we are lucky he was the successful bidder,” said Ron Sneddon, the bishop’s warden and member of the church’s roof committee. “I’ve been around a lot of projects that are easier to do and didn’t go as well as this one.”

The goal was to complete the project before the upcoming rainy season because the previous roof had sprung leaks that many worried would eventually threaten the church’s structural integrity.

The project’s estimated completion date was pushed back about a week to repair dry rot that was discovered in the steeple where the siding meets the roof and the gable above the altar.

A gothic arch detail along the top of the gable also had to be specially crafted for historic accuracy.

“It was on the original church, so we’ve got to do it,” Sneddon said. “We’re so dependent on (Kolb’s) resourcefulness at finding contractors.”

Sneddon and others at the church have been unable to find when the previous roof was installed, with the earliest evidence they can find being a photo from 1934 that showed the same metal shingles.

Kolb said one of the more interesting parts of the job was finding old burnt lumber in parts of the roof from a fire in 1868 that nearly burned down the church.

The church has kept a burnt piece of lumber and one of the old metal shingles for archival purposes.

In addition to the new metal shingles, the project also entailed installing a ridge beam to support a half-inch plywood sheath covering the whole roughly 3,900-square-foot roof for added protection.

Sneddon figures the new roof could potentially hold up for another 100 years.

The only remaining work left to be done is what Sneddon describes as a “fairly complicated” piece along the top that involves the final row of shingles.

It took more than two years for Sneddon and the others working on the church’s roof committee to finalize the specifications to get a building permit from the city.

One of the biggest delays was finding a structural engineer, because many turned them down due to not wanting to work on such a historic structure.

They finally found Fresno-based structural engineer Rick Ransom, of Brooks Ransom Associates, who enthusiastically offered his services in part because his mother is an artist who did paintings of the church.

The committee also struggled to find a company anywhere in the country that still produced the type of metal shingles previously on the church, before landing on Texas-based Berridge Manufacturing Co.

Billings Stove and Sheet Metal near Mono Vista also supplied materials for the project.

Scott DeGiobbi, of the Sonora-based DeGiobbi Painting, has been commissioned to repaint the whole church in mid-October.

All of the work was made possible through donations from the community and visitors over the years.

Most of the funding came from an anonymous donor who provided $215,000 in 2017, while the committee was able to raise more than $10,000 through their efforts.

The church has invited people who have contributed to the project over the years for a private dinner next Saturday to celebrate the completion of the roof.

Kolb, who started his company in 2016, said he’s looking forward to his next project being slightly less complicated.

“This has been a lot of fun, but I’m definitely looking forward to your standard residential homes,” he joked on Friday.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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