|Audsley / Saint Joan of Arc Cross|
"Day by day we awaited the arrival of the steam shovel. After what seemed an
endless delay it arrived on December 13 (1921). The cement footings were laid
at once before the ground, which was of the firmest brick clay, had any chance
of falling in. Then came the frost and we had to wait once more. the winter
was very mild and it was possible for the stone masons to lay the heavy
foundations in the early part of January. They brought them up to ground
The first plans provided that the auditorium should be about eighteen feet
below the ground level. The City Hall, however, raised an objection. If this
arrangement was to be followed it would be necessary to provide ramps
instead of stairways for the exits; and this in turn would mean the building of
a retaining wall that would have increased the price by many thousands of
dollars. Mr. Audsley met the difficulty by raising the whole building and
providing plans for a new front elevation to harmonize with the alteration. It
was a satisfactory change. The proximity of the neighboring houses really
made it desirable to place the school-rooms as high as possible.
The basement auditorium was changed into a temporary Church. This is the
explanation of its character. We had previously intended to hold services
temporarily on the first school floor. It was well that this difficulty occurred,
for it was not many years before we needed more space for school rooms
than one floor would have provided.
On January 24 the steel began to arrive. The building was to be completely
fire-proof; even the floors were to be nailed to a new cement with the use of
sleepers. Practically no wood entered into the construction, or the
partitions were built later on from gypsum.
Early in February the bricklayers strike was settled. Our building was the first to profit by it; indeed, it was by persuading Mr. Melody to withdraw from the Masters Builders Committee that we were able to bring this happy solution of a very serious situation.
Throughout the month of February the brickwork progressed like magic,
whilst the great steel columns and beams were being erected. I tried my had
at riveting and was able to put in a few bolts under close supervision. I learnt
then what heavy work it was to sit aloft and bear the constant vibration of the
compressed air riveter. The cement of the first floor was poured on March
16th. I remember the occasion very well. From our elevation we could see
the Delaware river and there was a fresh breeze flowing. My friend, the
building inspector, with whom I had once a controversy, was watching the
proceedings and he expressed his admiration for the strength of the
We left a portion of the wall at the south-western corner below level so that
the solemnity of the corner stone laying might take place in fair weather.
Bishop Crane officiated on Palm Sunday. Before the ceremony the
Bricklayers Union requested the pleasure of making him an honorary
member of their guild to record the settlement of the strike. Bishop Crane
was compelled to refuse this kind suggestion for reasons that are obvious.
Mr. Audsley appeared in his best and superintended the laying of the
beautiful stone that he had designed, a gift of the stone contractor. In it were
placed various articles destined to prove the date of the event....
By the end of May the brickwork was finished and in another month the roof
was on. The plastering began at once. On July 2 the first mass was said in
the new building on the middle floor. For one month the Sunday masses
were celebrated in this inconvenient place, the floor being of unfinished
cement. The plasters completed their work in the Auditorium by the end of
July. On August 6 mass was said here, the floor being still unfinished.
Everything was practically in order by October 8 .
The motif of a cross within a circle that appeared on the school's corner
stone had been earlier used by Audsley on the family monument at Mount Hope
Cemetery in Yonkers, New York. It would serve as the marker of his final
resting place upon his death on 21 June 1925."