Broken window leads to stained glass restoration project


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — When a rock was thrown through a stained glass window at Holy Family Church in 2010, the condition of the church’s windows was evaluated. “When the repairs were made we were informed the overall condition of the windows was poor due to deterioration of the lead,” said Steve Imming, parish finance council president.

Anne Marie Amacher
Workers from Glass Heritage install restored windows in Holy Family Church in Davenport. The parish is having all its stained glass windows restored.

After having the windows evaluated and getting a cost estimate, he said it took three years to figure out how to pay for the restoration.

The windows are original to the church, which was built in the early 1900s. All the windows in the main building are green glass with a simple beige pattern and a hint of other colors. Imming said as far as he knows, the windows were simple to save on cost.


So far, Imming has not been able to find information about who designed and made the stained glass windows. Glass Heritage, which is doing the restoration work, has not found any markings on the windows to help solve the mystery. More than 30 windows will be restored.

Mac Lopez with Glass Heritage said the stained glass windows being removed are in poor condition. “The lead holding the glass together is cracking and deteriorating, making for very unstable windows. The glass is filthy from decades of dust and dirt accumulating on the windows. In some cases the windows were bowed and deflected because of the poor lead conditions and heat being trapped between the protective coverings and the stained glass.”

Work began in August 2013 when the first windows were removed. Removal, restoration and installation are being done in stages.

Workers remove the windows, disassemble and remove the lead, clean, inspect, repair, reassemble and solder, then install the windows, which feature a new protective, breathable glass.
Bowed and deflected windows may be repaired if the lead is in good enough condition to allow the attachment of reinforcement bars, Lopez said. If the lead is too deteriorated to solder, or other structural failures are detected, a complete restoration is usually recommended.

“In order to fix a bowed stained glass panel it is necessary to remove it from the opening, set it on a flat surface and apply gentle pressure on the bowed part of the window in order to flatten the lead and glass to its original position. After the window is flattened as much as possible a reinforcement bar must be soldered to the bowed area in order for the panel to keep its shape. This is only a short-term repair, not a restoration. Deflection of the glass shows that the lead is already deteriorated. Since lead is not elastic and cannot ‘bounce’ back, it will continue to sag over time.”

Lopez said each window that Glass Heritage has restored has its own challenges, from difficulty of removal at the church to difficulty of disassembly, design, repair or replacement of glass.

“Many variables need to be accounted for when restoring a stained glass window. One large window in the main body of the church at Holy Family could be restored in two to three weeks … Of course we do not take one window at a time; we remove many windows at one visit, and then the windows go through the restoration process as a group, so that it is difficult to put an exact timeline on the restoration process.”

Imming said one stained glass window on the Pleasant Street side of the church could be seen from the outside, but not the inside of the church. He said it had to be removed from the outside because a wall obstructed it on the inside. “Decades ago a confessional occupied the space along this wall and covered the window. It appears that the window may have been in the center section of the confessional, where the priest would sit. When the stained glass was removed a sliding wooden panel was found. It appears this panel may have been used to keep the sun out when the panel was down and when up it would allow the vent window in the stained glass to be opened.”

The church has had other stained glass windows, too. Four multi-colored windows with a diamond pattern were in the former bell tower. The upper two of those windows were bricked over in 1955, when a new brick veneer was added to the entire church, Imming said. Originally, three large windows were on the east wall (the sanctuary’s back wall), which may also have been bricked over. “I’ve only seen black and white photos of these windows, but they were the same pattern as the green windows.”

Total cost of the restoration is $155,150 and approximately $126,000 has been raised so far. “We have been very impressed by and deeply grateful for the support our parishioners have shown for this very necessary work,” Imming said.

Anyone interested in adopting a window can contact Holy Family Parish at (563) 322-0901 or can pick up an envelope at the church.

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