Colorfully filtered sunlight again graces the inside of the Stillwater United Church, now that its 135-year-old stained glass windows are back from a seven-month restoration project.
One rose-shaped window and nine vaulted windows were removed in October by Willet Hauser Architectural Glass and shipped to the company’s Winona, Minn., studio where the windows were taken apart and cleaned.
The company removes the lead around each glass piece and cleans the glass separately before putting the whole window back together. The windows were brought back to the church and installed last month.
The project cost about $140,000, which was $10,000 more than original estimates. The church paid for the project through money it raised for an overall building renovation.
Lifelong parishioner Chris Nelson, the chairman of the committee that oversaw the project at the church, said the increased cost was due to wood that needed replacing and more painting than was initially expected.
“They have a whole new look,” Nelson said. “You [can] actually see like a texture in the windows that was not apparent before, and even different colors.”
The windows have images of various religious symbols, including a chalice and the Greek letters of alpha and omega.
Each window is made of American opalescent glass, which was developed in the 1800s by John LaFarge and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The church used the Plexiglas windows that had been an outside weather shield in place of the stained glass windows while the windows were being restored in Minnesota.
The Rev. Charles Woodman said stained-glass windows were originally used to teach theology to people who couldn’t read.
“We are taking care of an heirloom that we inherited from generations before,” Woodman said. “We’re being faithful.”
The church was built in 1873 as the Second Baptist Church, which it remained until 1947. At that time, three Christian churches merged to form the Stillwater Federated Church.
That combination of Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregations existed until 1952 when it became solely a Presbyterian church.
“There are three purple round pieces of glass, and as you walk from one end of the center aisle to the other, you can see the color change and it kind of has a life of its own,” said Beverly Frank, the clerk of the church’s board.
“It’s like looking at brand new window.”
Church officials want to continue the renovation project and eventually repair and paint the walls of the sanctuary, refinish the pews and replace the carpet.
Woodman said church officials realized how dark it was in the sanctuary when the windows were gone and only the clear Plexiglas remained.
“At least we’re aware now, we don’t have to fight the battle of bringing people to awareness,” he said. “Once they know the need, then it’s up to the leaders of the church to supply what the church needs.”
Both Nelson and Woodman said they hope more renovations will be able to start at the church within the next few years.
“The church, the congregation itself, feels like they really accomplished a big chore of the project by having this done,” Nelson said. “I think folks really like the looks of them. I have not heard a negative comment from anybody on them.”
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