Sacred Landmarks Toolkit

The sacred landmarks in Northeast Ohio were built to last and are a testament to the aspiration of past generations. CRS helps congregations to be good stewards of their buildings by making appropriate maintenance decisions.

Before you start any renovation, fix your roof and the adjacent drainage systems of downspouts and gutters first. Maintaining the roof in good repair and keeping your building dry is the most important thing your congregation can do as stewards of a sacred landmark.  Proper maintenance is essential to make sure these roofs last. Repairing clay tile or slate roofs is complicated and usually requires a specialized contractor. Here are some tips for you or your contractor on repairing your specialty roof.

Even in ethnic neighborhoods of simple, frame workers' cottages, sacred landmarks in our region tend to be built of brick or stone. These buildings are often a reflection of the grand churches of Europe remembered by the immigrants who settled our region. Improper repointing or cleaning of masonry buildings can, however, create more problems than they solve. Here are some guidelines for caring for masonry.

Of all the features in a house of worship, the beauty of the stained glass windows are what give the sanctuary its identity and create the strongest impressions. Often, these windows have begun to rust, bow, and deteriorate. Here are some resources for caring for your stained glass windows.

The expense associated with maintaining a sacred landmark is significant. Even if your building is listed as a landmark, there is no one source for funding maintenance, repairs, or larger scale rehabilitation projects. The expense of these buildings rests primarily with your congregation. Here are some resources to assist you in your fundraising efforts.



Sacred Landmarks Toolkit

Specialty Roofs

Many churches built late in the nineteenth and early in the twentieth centuries were built with specialty roofs – slate, tile, or copper. These are fireproof and durable enough to last for more than a century.  In fact, the flashing and felt beneath the slate or tile often deteriorates and needs to be replaced before the slate or tile. These materials should be retained whenever possible because they are important to your building's character and they are more durable than asphalt shingles or other materials with which you may replace them.

Tips for your congregation on maintaining your slate,
tile or metal roof

  • Replace missing slates or tiles. Save money by getting them through building supply companies or salvage yards.
  • Support Systems. Though durable, clay tile and slate were not meant to support weight. Contractors use support systems to avoid putting weight directly on these materials while doing repairs.
  • Gutter care. Be sure to maintain and keep gutters and downspouts fully functional so the support systems for heavy clay tile and slate roofs remain sound.
  • If the roof is beyond repair, replace the roof with identical materials. If real tile or slate is cost-prohibitive, use new substitute tiles and slates, made of fiberglass or architectural cement.
  • Replacement with modern asphalt shingles is a last resort. If you must do this, use shingles the same size and color of the original roof.
  • Reference Material: Refer to Preservation Briefs 4, 29 and 30 – Roofing for Historic BuildingsSlate Roofs and Clay Tile Roofs.
  • The New York Landmarks Conservancy publication, Common Bond, dealt with lead, copper, and metal roofs in this issue:.
  • Partners for Sacred Places has additional articles on roofing, slate, and tile here.


Your brick or stone landmark has withstood tempestuous weather and the test of time. But now may be showing its years. Follow these rules in repairing or brick or stone building.

  • There is more to mortar than you think. Mortar is a mix of sand, lime and cement that works by keeping bricks or stones apart. Mortar should expand and contract with temperature and moisture changes. Therefore, it's critical to always use a high quality mortar. For example, the newer Portland cement can be harder than the masonry units.  That makes it less elastic, causing cracking and chipping of the bricks during regular freeze/thaw cycles. Refer to Preservation Brief #2, Repointing Mortar Joints.
  • Make it a point to repoint properly. When fixing mortar, called "repointing," it's critical to match the original mortar in color, composition, joint width, and tooling. Repointing should be done after cleaning.  Always try test patches first.
  • Take a breather. Your building needs to breathe. It does this through the masonry, if it isn't sealed artificially. Avoid using sealants. They not only seal your building from outside moisture, they don't let interior water vapor out. If you get started using sealants, your job never ends. They have to be replaced every three years. If you don't, water can seep into areas where the sealant has worn off, get trapped behind existing sealant, and cause damage. Here is an article on clear masonry coatings.

Stained Glass Windows

Here are some resources for Stained Glass Windows

Additional Resources

The Cleveland Restoration Society works in conjunction with the following local and national organizations to provide additional sacred landmark preservation resources.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation
Since 1949, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has served as the leading historic preservation organization in the nation, providing leadership, education and advocacy to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize the communities in which they reside.

Partners for Sacred Places
Founded in 1989, Partners for Sacred Places is the only national, non-sectarian, non-profit organization dedicated to the sound stewardship and active community use of America’s older religious properties. Partners provides assistance to the people who care for sacred places while promoting a new understanding of how these places sustain communities.

New York Landmark Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Program
Created in 1973, this statewide historic organization manages a number of historic preservation programs and initiatives. The Conservancy’s award-winning Sacred Sites Program is the oldest and largest statewide grant program dedicated to helping landmark religious properties.

Interfaith Coalition on Energy
Launched in 1980 by a coalition of Philadelphia religious organizations, the ICE guides congregations on how to reduce their operating budgets by streamlining their energy consumption and purchasing, and focusing on preventive maintenance of their mechanical and electrical systems.