For the next few months, the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, 230 Scioto Street, will look like its preparing for a major storm. Its Gothic style stained glass sanctuary windows are being removed for restoration and the openings temporarily boarded up.
The repair and cleaning of the windows is the largest and among the last projects of a recent program of renewal and repair of building and grounds at Epiphany.
Church records confirm that the memorial stained glass windows were installed in 1884. That makes them 132 years old.
Church history also states that the windows were created from a rare Belgian glass, the formula for which was lost during World War I. So it’s important that the work be preserved as one of the remaining examples of this old-world artistry.
The sanctuary stained glass is also singular for its extensive use of ancient Christian symbolism. Among the donors names inscribed on the windows are Mosgrove, Happersett, Gwynne, Helps, McGuffey-Laughlin and Jennings, some of Urbana’s earliest families.
One window was a gift from the Sunday School and another from the Church of Our Saviour in Cincinnati.
Franklin Art Glass Studios, Inc. as been engaged to do the restoration and cleaning and is currently removing the delicate, leaded panels. They are being taken to the firm’s Columbus workrooms where artists and trained conservators will repair or replace damaged glass, re-lead joints if necessary and clean the windows inside and out.
The church will have to rely on artificial light in the sanctuary for several months until permanent, clear glass storm windows can be made to the specifications and installed. No date is given for the return of the refurbished stained glass, but Franklin confirms that it will take months.
Franklin associates Adrian Zambrano and Cole Moffatt started October 5 to remove the panels of stained glass. This is done from the inside. The sections are placed in protective coverings and secured on a truck in racks built especially for this kind of fragile freight.
Then the window openings are filled with 7/18” plywood, cut to a pattern made by drawing around the slender Gothic and rectangular glass panels. The plywood pieces are tapped snugly into matching window openings and sealed against weather.
Moffatt pointed out the dry, crumbly framing left in the empty windows will also be replaced with strips of new wood identical in size and quality to the old.
Zambrano explained that if any glass is missing or is damaged beyond repair, new glass of a very fine quality will be painted by an artist, matching the color, shadings and detail of the original. When the piece is glazed and fired, it will be an exact replica.
In addition to the memorial windows, one of the two art glass windows in the parish hall will be renewed as will a large, three-paneled stained glass pictorial window behind the altar. When that was installed, it was in an outside wall. With the addition of the parish hall in 1920, it was cut off from outside light, but since then it has been lighted artificially.
Franklin is a family firm of several generations. The grandfather of current owner Glen Helfs was one of the founders of the Stained Glass Association of America whose members represent the country’s finest restoration firms.
Affluent early American settlers, in imitation of their European homeland architecture, used stained glass in their homes, public buildings and churches. Moffatt said that one of Franklin’s most extensive restorations was a 19th century home in eastern West Virginia.
He said the Epiphany project is about the average size of most of their church work.
In addition to the window restoration, the brick sidewalks at the front and west side of Epiphany have been rebuilt. Artisan Jay Wilson, owner of J & J Remodeling, hand laid pavers, a brick-like product but less vulnerable to weather, in the same pattern as the old walk. New black iron handrails completed the project.
At the front entrance some splits in the original stone steps were repaired. New cement steps were poured for the west entrance, a dying tree was removed and the parking lot resealed.
Inside, years of intermittent basement flooding were ended with the installation of a pit and sump pump at the northwestern corner of the building. Upstairs in the parish hall, the hardwood floor was refinished by Joe McConnell of Flooring and Restoring LLC of West Liberty and all windows were replaced.
The renewal work is being guided by Epiphany Junior Warden Ed Hardin, assisted by Senior Warden Diane Kremer and the Vestry. It is being funded by the church with a grant for partial payment of the window restoration from the Church Foundation of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.
Rev. Donald J. Duford currently serves as priest of the Northern Miami Valley Episcopal Cluster, which includes Epiphany and The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Mechanicsburg.
Submitted by Sally Johnson on behalf of the Northern Miami Valley Episcopal Cluster.