Quake Damages Spires on Washington’s National Cathedral

August 23, 2011

The Washington National Cathedral, the highest point in the U.S. capital city, suffered damage in Tuesday’s earthquake, with three spires in the central tower breaking off of the gothic-style building, a spokesman said.

Richard Weinberg, director of communications at the Episcopal cathedral, said the three pinnacles on the 30-story-high central tower had broken off and were lying in the grass.

“A fourth is leaning,” said Weinberg. “There was other minor structural damage to buttresses and smaller pinnacles.”

No one was injured from the damage, but the cathedral — host to state funerals, and memorial services for many U.S. presidents and the site of several presidential inaugural prayer services — was closed to the public so the building could be inspected.

The cathedral, which weighs 150,000 tons and took 83 years to complete, is a solid masonry structure made of limestone blocks placed one atop another.

The flying buttresses are also solid stone, and they help hold up the walls by bracing them. The roof is held up by a steel beam structure, but does not help hold up the rest of the cathedral.

Other damage reported from the earthquake in Washington occurred at the Ecuador Embassy, a recorded message by the D.C. Fire and EMS agency said.

(Reporting by Deborah Charles and Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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