BERLIN – Restoration of the stained glass windows at Stevenson United Methodist Church is now underway following a successful fundraising campaign.
Crews last week removed several of the church’s stained glass windows so they could be shipped to Minnesota to begin what will likely be a year-long restoration process. Through the church’s Restore the Light campaign, a total of 34 windows will be refurbished.
“The job will not be completed for a year but it’s a big step for us,” said Beth Sise, chair of the Restore the Light Committee.
Efforts to restore the building’s stained glass windows, which were installed in 1912 when the granite church was built, began in 2021 when an assessment determined that $211,000 of work was needed to address the glass panes and acrylic covers that had been damaged by the sun. While the church’s largest three windows were refurbished in the 1990s, the majority of them were in need of restoration. And so last year, the church started fundraising and quickly raised the entire amount needed. Sise said major donors included The Humphreys Foundation, the Thomas Hanley Trust and the E. Bowen and Francis Hyde Quillin Foundation Inc. Countless others, however, made donations and shared memories of the church. One donor, for example, enclosed a photo of their parents getting married at the church years ago.
“We got a lot of neat, heartwarming notes and cards,” Sise said. “I was blown away. It was very special.”
Church officials signed a contract last August and since then have been waiting for experts from Willet Hauser Architectural Glass to get to the Berlin project.
“We’ve been waiting our turn,” Sise said.
While some of the stained glass windows can be worked on in place, 14 of them that are not structurally sound will be sent to the Midwest for historic restoration. Sise, who once visited the company’s facility on a trip through Minnesota, said the restoration process was slow and tedious, as there were several steps involved. Crews photograph, measure and remove the windows from the church and then ship them to Minnesota, where rubbings are made of each panel before the windows are disassembled under water. Lead is removed and each individual piece of glass is cleaned before any breaks are repaired and the windows are reassembled. When the lengthy process is complete, the windows will be shipped back to Berlin and reinstalled at Stevenson.
For now, however, passersby might notice painted plywood in place of the usual stained glass on some of the church’s windows. Church members want the public to know that’s just temporary, as the stained glass will be returned as soon as it is restored. Sise added that the impacted windows were the smaller ones on the side.
“The big windows were already done and were in good shape,” she said.
Sise said church members appreciated the amount of interest and monetary donations the unique project had received.
“We’re very excited and grateful for the support,” she said.
For information on the project, visit the church’s website, stevensonchurch.org/windows.