The majestic bronze doors of St. Patrick's Cathedral -- their sheen faded by weather and the grime of city life -- should have a new look by next spring.
Workers started the herculean task late Thursday night of removing the doors as part of a $177 million face-lift to the legendary Manhattan cathedral. The process of removing the doors is expected to be completed Friday night.
Each bronze door weighs more than 20,000 pounds and is 22 feet by 8 feet wide.
Work crews began loosening the hinges on both doors at about 11 Thursday night, wrapping the doors in blankets and strapping them on wide bands from a crane before they were to be lowered onto a flatbed truck and taken away for restoration.
The four-hour job was expected to shut down portions of Fifth Avenue and side streets that surround St. Patrick's for cars as well as pedestrians.
The doors will be restored to their natural bronze color. They will be stripped of paint and bronze polish and coated with wax to protect them from the elements, said architect Jeff Murphy of Murphy Burnham & Buttrick.
A set of temporary doors will be installed. A photographic image of the bronze doors will cover the temporary doors, which are made of metal frames and plywood, Murphy said.
"The doors will have a photo image of the original doors. It will look quite nice for the holidays," Murphy said. The original doors are expected to be reinstalled in the spring.
The restoration project, which has the cathedral covered in a black mesh net, is its first face-lift since the 1940s.
The project will include cleaning the cathedral's stone work both inside and outside; cleaning and polishing its stained-glass windows, and the refurbishing its 300 wooden pews. A portion of the cathedral's organ -- 9,000 pipes -- has already been removed for cleaning and restoration.
A national landmark, St. Patrick's welcomes 5.5 million visitors a year.