The Lloyd United Methodist Church in Highland is the quintessential small country church. Modest in size but with a high, vaulted ceiling, its well-worn pews are flanked by six tall stained glass windows: three on each side, all identical in design. Overhead hangs a chandelier believed to be original to the building, although it would have been gas-fed then; the church dates back to 1851. Originally sited on a plot of land nearby, the building was physically moved to its present location at 476 New Paltz Road after access to the church was due to be cut off by railroad construction in 1913.
During the move, great care was taken to protect the church’s stained glass windows. But by 2013, a century later, those windows were in bad shape, having suffered the ravages of time and neglect. After some fundraising, a restoration project began in 2015, and since then, three of the church’s stained glass windows have been fully restored.
The Lloyd United Methodist Church will hold a special service this Sunday, April 15 at 9 a.m. during which Pastor Gail Erdie will bless the restoration of the latest of the church’s windows to be renewed. The window will be dedicated to the memory of longtime parishioner, Elvin Elliott. The service will be followed by a reception at 1 p.m. to celebrate the occasion and to view a slide show demonstrating the restoration process undertaken by DC Studios of Germantown. Pastor Erdie has extended an invitation to the entire community to attend both service and reception, an opportunity to join the local families with a long connection to the church and learn what goes into the restoration of stained glass windows.
A seamless blend of old and new
Stained glass windows dating from the late 18th century up through the early 20th century can be expected to have a life span of approximately 75-100 years if properly maintained, says Doris Cultraro, owner of DC Studios.
When she first visited the Lloyd church in 2013, “We encountered windows that basically were neglected for more than 100 years, as are most stained glass windows,” she says. “I recall one of the church members saying the windows had not been opened in more than 40 years. The transom frames were rusted out due to water leakage over many decades, and they were inoperable.”
The windows had areas with missing lead and broken glass, failed support bars, severe bowing with bulging glass, previous repairs badly done with glass that did not match, and nonexistent putty, which helps to strengthen and waterproof the windows. “All of that is a prescription for window failure,” Cultraro says, “requiring the windows to be fully taken apart, piece by piece, cleaned, the problems corrected, and then all of it reassembled as if it were new, using current materials that will last 100 to 150 years.”
The first of the window restorations in the Lloyd church was completed in 2016, dedicated the following year to the memory of H. Scott Witz, son of longtime parishioners Herb and Janis Witz. The second window to be restored was dedicated to the late Alfred Lane. Both windows, along with the newly restored panel, are fully operational now, and the repair work is so seamless it’s difficult for the casual observer to discern what part of the windows is restored and what was original.
“It was a challenge to correct earlier repairs that utilized poorly matched glass,” Cultraro says. “But we pride ourselves, as a studio, after 40 years of service to our clients, that we were able to find pieces in our extensive archives of stored glass that perfectly matched some of the missing glass.”
The greatest difficulty in the most recent restoration, she says, was that some of the earlier, poorly done repairs had changed the design of the panel, causing it to be different from the others. “Our process is to take a rubbing of the original window, so we know the exact pattern and how to put it back together. If necessary, we make some of the same ‘mistakes’ that the original artisan made to ensure that the window fits back into its original frame. This rubbing becomes the template to follow for the rebuilding of the window, and since we had the earlier window tracings in our studio, we knew exactly how to correct some of the mistakes that were evident. Substitutions that matched as closely as possible to the original glass were selected and presented for approval, and to have it not look odd, several other pieces of glass were changed so that the new glass blended in.”
Even though the design of all six windows in the Lloyd church is identical, Cultraro says that does nothing to diminish their collective impact. “The colors are glorious, even though the windows are simple compared to the ornate Tiffany-style windows that many people associate with churches. The quality and colors of the glass that was originally selected for these windows ranks high up there in beauty and richness.”
In working on these projects for the Lloyd church, helping to guide the parishioners in preserving the windows for future generations, Cultraro says she feels they’ve become like family. “In our studio, we strongly believe that more than the project, the relationship we have with our clients in paramount. And we’re appreciative to have completed these three panels for the church.”