One of Staunton's treasures is going to look a little bit different in the coming years.
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, one of Staunton's historic gems, is crumbling. Forty percent of the stone that makes up the church is failing.
"You can grab the stone in certain areas and just pull chunks away," said Chris Valenzuela, a member of the church's building committee.
The stone is not just a façade—the stones bear weight.
"If we don't replace that exterior stone we will lose the building," said Frank Strassler of the Historic Staunton Foundation. "It is tied structurally to the core of the building.
Strassler said the building, known for its green serpentine stone, was T.J. Collins' first large public commission.
"He chose the stone because of the Irish population here," Strassler said.
After working with engineers, architects, stone masons and geologists, Saint Francis has found a replacement stone: granite, a long-term solution.
"The granite has an indefinite life as far as humans are concerned," Valenzuela said.
Granite with a hint of green, that is.
"We were really concerned about maintaining some kind of green in the church," Valenzuela said.
So every single serpentine stone will be reproduced to its exact dimension and replaced with the granite.
"It will save future generations from a lot of repairs. That's where our happiness comes from," said Father Joseph Wamala, though he says the people of Saint Francis are a little sad to lose the green stone.
The church hopes to start the $2 million project in May, but first it needs approval from Staunton's Preservation Commission. It has already begun fundraising.
Parishioners will continue to worship in the church.