By Martin Faith
Stained glass restoration is a tedious process but it is also very rewarding. Often, there is historic or sentimental value attached to the stained glass because it has a unique story or has been part of the community for a long time. For us, it’s a rewarding experience to be able to part of these special projects. It allows us to give back in our own unique way also to be part of the effort of preserving an art form that we hold very dear to our hearts.
Just recently, we had the opportunity to work on a particularly rewarding project for a historic church located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Vernon A.M.E. Church asked us to help with the restoration of their stained glass windows. Below, we’ve provided some details on the story of the church and the project.
History of the Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Vernon African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church is located in historic Tulsa. The church is best known for its role in protecting nearby residents in its basement during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. When an angry white mob attacked a wealthy African American community, residents found harbor in the church while the rest of the buildings were burned to the ground. The church is one of the only structures to have survived this incident.
After the riot, the church rebuilt using their own funds. A set of lovely stained glass windows were added to the building. Service resumed as usual and the church became an important symbol of the community’s past and history. Today, the church continues to provide critical support for the community in many ways, which includes giving out daily meals to the homeless.
Restoring the Church’s Stained Glass Windows
Recently, it became evident that the stained glass windows which were added to the church during its reconstruction in 1928 were in need of repair. Our experts were called in to assess the damage.
Upon inspection, we discovered that the stained glass had deteriorated badly from exposure to the elements. There were 130 panels total, all of which needed some form of repairs. The window frames were rotting and needed to be replaced. 700 of the 5,000 individual pieces of glass were damaged badly and also needed to be replaced.
The church launched a fundraising campaign to finance the repairs. A local mill company was called in to replace the window frames. Meanwhile, we consulted with a stained glass manufacturer in the U.S. They were able to determine a formula for replacing the broken pieces based on their exact texture, color, and density.
While we were waiting for the new glass to arrive, we repaired as many of the panels as possible using the original glass. This allowed us to work at a faster pace. Then, when the new glass came in, we finished the rest.
In addition to these repairs, we also created a new memorial stained glass window to give to the church as a gift. This was used to replace a window that was missing entirely.
Once all of the windows were complete, we created a protective covering for each one. The stained glass and the covering were placed into the window frames as a single unit, so as to ensure that there would be no protrusion which would alter the appearance of the historic building.
The Church’s Reaction: A Joyous Moment
When the project was finished, the stained glass looked fantastic. The church was extremely pleased with the results. The pastor was so overjoyed that he even kissed the stained glass. They were also grateful for the memorial window that we donated.
For us, it was an extremely rewarding and satisfying experience to be part of this project. We will never forget it! We hope that the stained glass will bring joy to the church for many years to come.
For more information about the Tulsa church project or stained glass restoration in general, please contact our office.