Painted scenes from scripture

Workers perform micro-adjustments on the installation of two restored 124-year-old stained glass windows at Plain City Presbyterian Church.

(Posted Dec. 27, 2019)

By Ris Twigg, Staff Writer

Three stained glass windows at Plain City Presbyterian Church have been restored to their former glory.

The 124-year-old windows underwent a four-month-long restoration that included installing additional support for the glass, storm upgrades, and new lead bars throughout.

“We were afraid we were going to lose them,” said Jim Kaufman, a church trustee. “The windows are so important to us that we felt like it was time to act. We’d talked for several years about them getting restored.”

Wendy and Robert Joliet, owners of Studio Arts & Glass in Canton, Ohio, performed the restoration. They and their team started the project in September and finished up with re-installation the week of Dec. 8. Members of the congregation visited the glass studio at points during the restoration to get an inside-look at the process.

Wendy Joliet, co-owner of Studio Arts & Glass in Canton, Ohio, talks with Jim Kaufman, a trustee at Plain City Presbyterian Church, about the process involved in restoring the church’s 124-year-old stained glass windows.

“We love when the congregation comes up to see how we do this, because then they appreciate the work it took to restore these windows and they see where their money goes,” Wendy Joliet said.

Prior to their restoration, the three windows were essentially one large pane of glass placed into a wood frame without much support. The original lead crossbars bowed outward due to settling of the church over the years.

“The windows were made originally back in the late 1800s, and they were just huge. What we did was just divided them a few times more so they’ll last longer for the church,” Joliet said.

The new lead bars will help to secure each section of the glass and prevent the glass itself from bowing outward in the future.

In addition to infrastructure support, the stained glass windows also received a new protective coating that helps prevent damage from storms and heat.

Heat expands the glass while cold contracts it. This back-and-forth causes the stained glass to weaken. The new storm coating will reduce the degree to which that happens, Kaufman said.

Wendy Joliet, co-owner of Studio Arts & Glass in Canton, Ohio, points out ridges in the 124-year-old stained glass that can now be seen after the windows were cleaned and restored.

The last time the windows were restored was more than 70 years ago, and thanks to generous donations from the church’s 75-member congregation, they’ll last another 75 years or more, Joliet said.

Each window depicts a painted scene from scripture on top of the glass. Only a few pieces of the original glass had to be replaced due to fractures that made the glass unusable once taken out, Joliet said.

Joliet and her husband have been in the stained glass restoration business for more than 40 years. Joliet said some of her favorite glass to work with is the kind used in the church windows.

Kokomo Opalescent Glass, a manufacturer based in Kokomo, Ind., has been hand-making stained sheet glass for well over 130 years.

“It’s got so much more character than a lot of manufacturers today. It’s really good quality stained glass. There’s no imported glass in these windows. It’s all made in America, restored in America,” Joliet said.

In addition to maintenance, the stained glass windows were cleaned thoroughly. Kaufman said that after the cleaning he noticed details on the glass he and others had never seen before.

“We’re a small congregation, and we feel like these windows really are the church. They’re just so beautiful and they’re the history of the church,” he said.

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