ALBANY, Ore. — One-hundred years of history is on full display once again at an Albany church after a group came together to restore two of its stained glass windows.
Two years ago, private donors funded an approximate $90,000 restoration project to keep the large stained glass windows at the United Presbyterian Church alive.
After 100 years, contractors say gravity was pulling the weight of the glass down on top of other pieces. Some pieces were cracked and were taped together or pasted with different caulks or cements. It was only a matter of time for the 2,000-piece windows to collapse.
“The whole window was falling apart because the lead was no good,” said Jeff Senders of Custom Stained Glass in Albany. “Broken pieces of glass. Broken welds, things like that.”
Senders and other contractors took on the two-year project — two years ago. On Tuesday this week, the last stained glass window went back in to its original place.
“The key in this restoration is saving the window for your kids,” Senders said. “And your descendants. Otherwise it’d just be a pile of glass on the floor.”
Senders and the general contractor, Paul Davis, agree that restoration is anything but easy.
“So we took the whole window out, carried the whole thing down to him (Senders), he takes it all apart; puts it all back together in the one unit,” Davis said. “It’s tricky to handle.”
One by one, Senders soaks each stained glass piece in water for a few days. Then he scrapes off all the putty and leftover pastes, scrubs off the dirt, and soaks it again. He replaces broken pieces with glass of the same era. But finding a matching piece can be tricky.
“There’s a lot more to glass than just color,” Senders said. “You need a piece that matches in color, density, and grain.”
Senders said he had to replace about 25 percent of the glass pieces, but he was able to use scrap pieces or other antique pieces from past projects. Other pieces he was able to get in Portland. Then he re-welded all the pieces together.
Davis says he was able to build steel reinforcing pieces in the center of the windows to distribute the weight in half. Because of this, he says he hopes the next restoration project will be in 200 years instead of 100.
Now, workers are grouting the edges of the window frame, then they will paint it and put plexiglass over the window to protect it.
The church says it is forever grateful to keep the symbolism alive.
“There’s a sense of awe and wonder for the congregation when we come into the sanctuary,” said Pastor Brandon Lewis. “We can look at these windows and we’re drawn to the stories of our faith- and those stories are a part of our story as Christians as well.”