Stained glass windows missing on the south side of Union Avenue United Methodist Church will be returned this summer.
The tedious and detailed job of restoring the eight window sections has been progressing slowly but surely since they were removed in December.
Kirk Miller, chairman of the church’s Trustees Committee, said they were alerted to an issue with one of the windows by a member.
“He was going for a walk past the building and said, ‘Did you know that the stained glass window is falling out?’” he recalled. “Apparently, one of the panels on the stained glass window had come loose and crashed inside, and there’s a storm window that caught it so it didn’t come all the way out, but it was caught at the bottom of the storm window.”
After gaining approval for the expense, the church hired Shane O’Brien of Alliance, owner of Quiet Night Studio Stained Glass and Restoration, who did work restoring other sections of stained glass for the church in 2012.
Miller said thankfully, despite one of the windows falling, none of the glass was broken, allowing O’Brien to use all of it. The glass is original to the windows, and is well over 100 years old. The church was built in 1893 and there is no record of those windows being restored over the years.
“The lead had really broken down over time, and the windows were close to collapsing and pulling apart so it was done just in time,” O’Brien said.
In his workshop, O’Brien explained he makes a pattern of the window, which he uses as a roadmap for the rebuild as he puts in new leading, does soldering, seals it with a cement mixture and cleans the glass. “It’s a little bit like a puzzle,” he said.
O’Brien said the time-consuming job is a “complete and total tear down.” This means each of the approximately 2,200 pieces of glass is being handled and going through the restoration process. Each window takes at least 10 hours to complete, which takes time for O’Brien, who also has a day job.
He said when the process is complete he doesn’t fundamentally change anything in the stained glass windows; he just makes them look like a new version of the old window.
O’Brien said stained glass windows need re-leaded once a lifetime, usually every 80 years, which makes it special to be included in the process. “It’s just really cool to be the person that does it this time around because by the time it needs done again I’ll be long gone,” he said. “And anything that adds a little bit of beauty to the world is always nice. We need it.”
While it will be a bit longer before all the windows are replaced, Miller said just last week he got to see one of the panels and how different it looked. Previously, he said they were “falling apart and crumbling.” Now, he said, “It looked beautiful. We held it up to the light and it was amazing.”