WILMINGTON — The dove’s body was broken when the old window arrived at the South Street shop owned by stained glass artist John Schum.
When the window depicting a descending dove came in to the South Street Gallery, lots of photographs had to be taken and all of the stained glass pieces needed to be numbered and catalogued — and then all taken apart.
The window, which is from the Presbyterian Church of Wilmington’s earlier building located at the downtown corner of Locust and Mulberry streets, is being restored. It will add beauty and history to the current house of worship on Timber Glen Drive where it will be mounted on an interior sanctuary wall and illuminated with 10 light fixtures from behind.
With the structural damage to the window, pieces had to be reground and reshaped.
“You have to just kinda shave a little bit off of a lot of pieces in order to get it to fit. It would have taken a lot less time to make a new one,” Schum chuckled.
To restore the window and its nearly 500 pieces, some glass had to be made.
“You can’t buy glass this color and this texture anymore,” said Schum, who has about 30 years experience with stained glass. So, he had to make glass of a certain color and texture — from glass that was not the right color.
Using a water-based clay, he made a mold that needs to air dry for a week to 10 days “because you can’t put it in the sun, you can’t speed dry it with a hair dryer because it cracks,” he said. “You just have to let it go.”
After that, he put the mold in a kiln to bake it and later put kiln wash on it.
When, as was the case in this project, a workman can’t find the right color glass, he or she uses glass with a color that’s a little lighter than what’s wanted. Then, the artisan grinds up glass that’s a little darker and sprinkles it on top of the lighter-color glass “like salt,” said Schum.
That mix is placed in a kiln and the melting process yields the desired color. Afterward, the material is put on the mold and in the kiln to get the right texture, too, he said.
The restored window has an aesthetic advantage over the original, which had four reinforcing crossbars across it to keep wind from pushing in the pieces. Because it’s getting mounted inside, the crossbar support is not necessary.
Crossbars and stained glass windows — that’s a place where engineering and art fight, said Schum.
“I mean an artist will make something beautiful, OK? Then the engineer will come in — doing his job, now — and say, ‘According to my math, you need a bar here, here, here and here.’ And then the artist just goes off and cries someplace,” Schum mused.
It’s Schum’s understanding that members of the Presbyterian congregation will have an opportunity to participate in the restoration by helping apply window glazing putty around each piece of glass.
One person especially looking forward to the return of the descending dove is Janie Wildoner, a lifetime member of the Wilmington Presbyterian Church. She was married at the church on Sept. 1, 1963 when the window was part of the downtown streetscape.
“It’s a beautiful window. I’m just so thankful they went ahead and restored it. People will be able to enjoy it,” said Wildoner. Her late husband Roger at his passing designated as a memorial the refurbishing of the stained glass scene.
Church members Don Chafin, Frank Shaw and Rick McCarren have worked on a round frame for the window.
The window will be dedicated Sunday, Oct. 25 as part of the church’s annual heritage month. It will be placed near a baptismal font, a fitting spot because the descending dove is reminiscent of the holy spirit descending like a dove at Jesus’ baptism.
A descending dove also is contained within the graphic used by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) denomination to identify itself, said the Rev. Debbie Linville, pastor with the Presbyterian Church of Wilmington.
According to the local church’s website, the Presbyterian Church of Wilmington is one of the oldest churches in Clinton County, founded in 1823.
Early on, members worshipped in private homes as well as at the Baptist Church in Wilmington. In 1830, a sanctuary was built on the corner of Locust and Mulberry streets, and enlarged in 1890, states the website.
In 1965, local Presbyterians relocated to Randolph Street in the Southridge Subdivision where the Cornerstone Baptist Church now assembles. Before the downtown church was leveled, Dr. Emily Buchanan bought the descending dove window and displayed it in her yard during holiday seasons, according to local Presbyterian Jan Blohm.
Later, the window was a gift to the church from Drs. Richard and Emily Buchanan, according to Linville.
Presbyterian Church of Wilmington members have gathered together on Timber Glen Drive since July 2000.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.