Complete removal of the 111-year-old Nativity Window depicting the birth of Jesus in stained glass on Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s west wall at 501 N. Broadway, Shawnee, was scheduled to start this week as first step in a vitally needed re-leading and restoration project, the Rev. Tom Dahlman, rector, announces.
The entire window will be completely disassembled, replaced while reconstruction is underway with plain glass, and recreated with new leading and its original stained glass, in an intricate process projected to be completed by Easter, Fr. Dahlman said. When finished, it should last another century.
Installation of the Nativity Window, as well as eight smaller stained glass windows, four on each side of north and south exterior walls, started in 1909 and when completed, was expected to last for 100 years.
A strong windstorm about 8 p.m. on a Saturday night in December alerted church leaders that the first 100 years had more than passed.
“The wind caused the Nativity Window to bow out about three inches and knocked out some of the supports,” Fr. Dahlman said. “They are not very stable right now,” he added.
The Rev. Michael Matkin, curate (assistant to the rector), was in the church, showing it to a visiting friend from out-of-town, when the storm hit.
“It was a good thing we had a project ready to go,” Fr. Dahlman said. “We had already started restoration” of the smaller, side windows in the nave.
Sometime earlier, he had noticed the windows were bowing, especially on the southwest side of the church. When the storm hit, restoration of the side windows was almost complete; seven were finished and work was in progress on the eighth one, in the artist’s Oklahoma City studio.
When the damage was first noticed, the rector made some calls to the stained glass company and elsewhere. Julie Blackstone, of Shawnee, suggested calling Tim Brown, owner of Artistic Glass Studio, Oklahoma City, who has created stained glass work that is in the state capitol building.
Brown said the Shawnee Episcopal Church windows should last 100 years and they were over 100 years old. He could take the windows out or he could restore them, the rector recalled. “They were beginning to crumble; the supports were no longer strong enough to support them.
“We didn’t want to lose the windows or spend the money to replace them. It’s cheaper to restore the windows than to replace them and they are irreplaceable in the view of the church.”
That was the route chosen.
“They shouldn’t look different. The colors could (even) be brighter,” Fr. Dahlman said.
A Plexiglass protective covering was added to the Nativity Window, perhaps in the 1990s, and that will be used on its outside during the restoration process. When that is completed, the Plexiglass will be replaced with a plate glass exterior protective window covering.
The Nativity Window will be completely disassembled and the entire window will be recreated with new lead supports.
The original pieces of stained glass will be placed back into the window. Broken pieces will be replaced in their original spaces from the same original glass the manufacturer used to produce the Shawnee Nativity Window in the early 1900s.
“They made a lot of these windows for churches around the country,” Fr. Dahlman said. “It’s amazing they still had the glass.”
The company that made the local one and all those others is Ford Glass Company, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. “It’s still in business,” Fr. Dahlman said.
“The artist who is restoring the Nativity Window drove up to Minneapolis to get the glass pieces” needed.
He is scheduled to start work on dismantling the Nativity Window this week, with the goal of completing its restoration by Easter Sunday, April 12.
“They will try to take out most of the large pieces all at once. They will be replaced with plain glass temporarily,” Fr. Dahlman said.
The entire window project, including the Nativity Window re-leading and restoration and the eight smaller window restorations will cost over $90,000, he said. “We still lack $10,000 and anyone in the community we welcome to contribute any amount.”
Donations so far have ranged from $50 to the largest, a $60,000 gift.
The goal of completing the Nativity Window restoration by Easter was set to coincide with the expected completion of the $2 million expansion project currently underway on the church’s northside, although GH2 Architects, the Tulsa firm that designed the addition, had nothing to do with the window restorations.
The two projects are totally separate.
Among main features of the addition will be a children’s chapel, Sunday school classrooms, meeting rooms, offices, new kitchen, nursery, expanded parish hall and much new parking area.
“Sometime in the spring we’ll have an open house for the whole community and have a big special event,” Fr. Dahlman said. Planners will invite as many of the church’s former priests as possible.
“We have recruited the Gray Wolf Band of Shawnee to perform for the dinner. Dick Curtis, former Shawnee Middle School principal who now attends Emmanuel, is the leader of the band and has said he would do it,” the rector concluded.
While the Nativity Window and other stained glass windows started going into the church in 1909, Emmanuel Episcopal Church was founded in Shawnee in 1896. The church’s 125th anniversary will be celebrated in 2021.