Arlene Shovald, Special to the Mail Sep 28, 2018 | Original Article click here.
After three years of planning, restoration of the stained glass windows in Salida United Methodist Church is underway.
“The church was built in 1899 and dedicated in 1900,” said Burrell Welton, chairman of trustees. “After more than 100 years, the lead had cracked, some of the glass had fractured and there were other problems. We needed to do something to preserve the beauty of the church for future generations to enjoy.”
A grant application to the Colorado State Historical Society in 2017 was turned down because the church was told they needed an architect. That problem has since been rectified because no structural changes are being made.
Fundraising efforts began, and $51,000 was raised for the first window. However, when work began it was soon discovered another $6,000 would be necessary for repairs to the wood frames, which were damaged from age.
Repairing stained glass windows of this size (12 by 19 feet) is an expensive and time-consuming project.
Denver Art Glass was selected for the project.
“We take all the pieces out and then put the window back together,” Mike Delva, co-owner of Denver Art Glass, said. “In much of the glass from the late 1800s, the lead has deteriorated and new lead has to be put in. Pieces that were normally a foot long are breaking off in 1 inch or smaller pieces.
“Also a lot of this glass is no longer available. The color formulas have changed, mostly because of OSHA regulations. For example, cyanide was used in making some of the glass. We can’t use that anymore.”
It takes three weeks to a month to do just one lancet (panel) on a window.
“We salvaged 2,000 pounds of glass from old windows and we try to match from that supply,” Delva said. “The lead alloy we use today is also more resistant to atmospheric pollution.”
In the 1990s, the church had Plexiglas placed on the outside of the windows to protect from the elements, BB guns, hail and other dangers.
“In hindsight, we now know that more problems were created by doing that,” Welton said. “The heat and cold caused the windows to flex more with the Plexiglas covering. With these repairs, the windows will be vented to prevent that from happening.”
The church has a total of 32 windows. The three large ones will be repaired first, one at a time. The remaining windows are smaller and will be less costly to repair.
“We’re putting off another grant request to gather more money,” Welton said. “The church needs to come up with $12,000 to $14,000. If we can raise that and a grant is approved, the grant will pay the rest, but we have to have our share in hand.”
While 32 windows may sound like a lot to repair, it’s actually a small project for Denver Art Glass.
“We did a church in Colorado Springs with 200 windows,” Delva said. “These projects are always interesting. In a Jewish temple built in 1896 we found some very early lightbulbs as well as gas lines between the windows. At that time they were apparently not sure if electricity was going to become viable so they were prepared for both. The bulbs were labeled with their candle power.”
In another church in Colorado Springs the name of the original glass maker was unknown, and after much searching a tiny piece of glass revealed the name Copeland.
“We checked the 1888 Denver Business Directory and found Copeland Glass Co.,” Delva said. “Nine months later we got a call from a woman in New Jersey asking if we knew anything about art glass done by Hugh Copeland. She was his great-granddaughter and she came to Colorado to see his work.”
Denver Art Glass works in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and western Nebraska. Most of the work these days is churches. When Delva founded the company in 1980 he did a lot of residential work.
Getting into stained glass window restoration was something of an accident for Delva. He was in graduate school studying environmental biology and decided to study something totally unrelated to science.
“Boulder Community Free School was offering classes at the time, and I took a class there,” he said. “I worked at two other studios before starting the company in 1980.”
Anyone wanting more information about the Salida United Methodist Church window restoration program is invited to call the church office at 539-2755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.