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A Stained Glass Moment

Since we purchased the church last week, I’ve noticed that one feature of the building that people seem really interested in is the stained glass. People want to know if we’re going to keep it, replace it, do [insert whatever thing they think we should do with it here], and so on. They also want to know its provenance.

So, to answer: The stained glass windows appear to have been variously donated by various parishioners, either individually or in groups; at the bottom of each window is a name either of the person or group who donated the window, or a person in whose honor the window was donated. It seems disrespectful to get rid of those windows, and also, I have no interest in trying to plan out how to (slowly and expensively) replace them. Also, I happen to think they’re pretty. So they’re staying put. They’re mostly in good repair, which is nice, although there are a couple places where we’ll have to fix things. Those will go onto a list for the contractors we’re hiring, for the general refurb of the building.

If I were ever going to replace the windows, I should note, I would probably choose to do them in a very different style. One artist whose stained glass work I’ve long admired is James Hubbell, whose work I became familiar with because he did several stained glass windows for the chapel of the Webb Schools of California, the high school I attended. I’m not sure I could afford James Hubbell stained glass windows of the size I would need to replace the ones I already have in the church, but if money were no object, that’s the direction I’d go.

But! The stained glass windows we already have are great! And they’re already here and don’t need to be replaced! And they’re part of the history of the building and the community in which they reside! So why get rid of them? The answer is: Why indeed. They stay, and I’m glad to have them and have them be a part of the character of the building. We’ll be doing enough to upgrade the church. This is one part that’s worth keeping as is.

— JS

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

31 replies on “A Stained Glass Moment”

Best of Wishes to You and Chrissy for Planning to Keep Your Original Stained Glass! Way To Go! // Stay Safe and Well and “Keep on Keeping On!” // Sincerely, Michael D. Toman aka “Bardwulf the Sorta Kinda Memorious”

Thank you so much for respecting the history of the building and the original donors of the windows. My former church was not so lucky in its post-religious life.

I saw the windows and had two essentially simultaneous thoughts: “oh man I wish I could buy a building full of stained glass” and “oh man I wish I could see those windows better.”

I ca really say it’s “good news” that you’re planning to keep them, because it literally never would have occurred to me that someone might not consider them an asset! The only reason I could think that I’d want to remove the windows from a church is if I was someone who was severely upset by religious imagery, and if I was someone like that I would probably solve the issue by not buying a church in the first place.

I have to say, I’ve never thought about what happens to structural elements that were donated by parishioners when a church is … decommissioned? Deconsectrated? Sold?

It’s happened to a fairly large number of churches in my immediate vicinity, ranging from small, older facilities to fairly large and new edifices. All of them I’m aware of were demolished – one was flattened for a housing development, another for a grocery store.

I’m fascinated by how the sale takes place (denominations like Methodists and Catholics have a large central organization, but one small independent church wasn’t part of any organization — who gets that money?) Now I’m similarly fascinated by what happens to donated structural elements. I wonder if there’s an effort to offer them to the donators or their families?

Thank you. However you end up repurposing the interior space, the windows are wonderful. I like the curved pews, too, but unless you’re considering using the nave and sanctuary as a performance space it’s not likely you’ll have a use for them.

Q 1: “Why, indeed” (remove the stained glass)?

A 1: Because, perhaps, they are a thermal disaster. Single-layer glass networked with direct metallic thermal shorts standing between you and the Midwest winter.

Q 2: Any architecturally and economically practical way to “encapsulate” the stained glass art to let the light shine in but isolate it thermally from the external environment?

Unless pieces are falling out of it, why would anyone want to replace a stained glass window? Even then, I’d just re-solder those pieces back in, maybe add some steel struts to reinforce it if necessary.

As far as protecting the windows, it is a simple matter of adding an exterior barrier of plexiglass or acrylic to the outside.

It’s lovely to look at, it is something that gives the brain a chance to take a pause, and they soften the light entering the building which makes it easier to relax. These are things that are essential to writing, in my opinion.

As Frank/William mentioned above: “storm” windows outside the stained glass and/or plexi on the inside both protects the glass (stained glass can be fragile) and addresses the biggest downside – they tend to be ‘leaky’ to air/heat.

they seem lovely

nothing against Catholicism but stained glass in Catholic churches seems more out of place in a secular setting

I’m glad you are keeping them. Like you, I am fond of stained glass windows. Alrhough if money were indeed no object, a stained glass depiction of your wife, possibly as the Blessed Virgin, would be awesome.

You mess with those windows and you’ll have Stan Valchek and Frank Sobotka filing lawsuits so fast it’ll make your head spin! (Shout out to HBO’s The Wire and its famous stained glass window battle between the union and the po-po.)

Do they need any work re: energy efficiency. I am reliably informed that Ohio gets cold in the winter. Stained glass windows are inevitably large and single pane. I am also lead to believe that the heating/cooling needs of large buildings used predominantly 1 day a week are different than those used during weekly business hours.

The stained glass is lovely and deserves continuance, likely with double- or triple-paning to manage weather variations.
MY QUESTION: when does it stop being “the church” and become “that Scalzi building”?

Actually my first thought, looking at the picture of the front of the church building, was relief that the windows weren’t too religious looking. I could see them being a huge asset if at some point the nave was reconfigured into three layers of apartments with floor to ceiling floral motif stained glass windows. I’m glad to know the Scalzi’s intend to keep and preserve them. They do need storm windows, like the ones I have in my old house.

A nice photo of a nice window. If they’re all different, I would enjoy a survey of all the art glass windows some time, perhaps just a link to a photo set if it would be too long for a front page post.

Thanks for keeping the original art glass windows! I can’t imagine doing away with the ones you have in there now… would be horrible loss of karma!

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