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Restoring the Famous Stained Glass Windows in the Vernon A.M.E. Church in Tulsa

The belief that stained glass windows are fragile is a common misconception. In reality, stained glass windows are quite sturdy. Not only are they held together by durable materials like cement and lead caming, but there’s a tremendous amount of thought and consideration that goes into their design. There are stained glass windows that still exist today which were built hundreds of years ago.

Nevertheless, restoration is an inevitable part of every stained glass window’s life cycle. Which tedious, this process is remarkably effective for renewing windows which are old or deteriorating. At Fort Worth Stained Glass, we have spent years perfecting this process and are proud to say that it’s an area we excel in. We have helped many stained glass owners restore and preserve their beloved artwork over the years.

Just recently, we had the opportunity to work on a particularly unique stained glass restoration project for a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Vernon A.M.E. Church, famous for its role in protecting community residents during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, asked us to repair their beloved stained glass. Below, we’ve discussed the project in detail.

 

About the Vernon A.M.E. Church

The Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church is a historic site located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While fully operational today, the church once suffered major damage during a violent riot that occurred on May 31st, 1921.

The riot took place in a wealthy African American neighborhood and resulted in over 300 fatalities as well as the destruction of numerous homes and buildings. Several residents fled to the church in search of safety and hid in the basement. Miraculously, the church building survived.

Today, it is regarded as a symbol of hope and strength in the community. The church also continues to provide support to those in need by acting as a sort of soup kitchen and giving out meals to the homeless daily.

 

Stained Glass Repairs & Restoration

After the 1921 riot, the church took it upon themselves to rebuild. Most of the construction was refinanced by donations from the congregation. During this time, a set of stained glass windows were added to beautify and adorn the new church walls.

Unfortunately, because of Tulsa’s extreme weather, the stained glass suffered considerable damage over the years. We were called in to assess their condition and conduct repairs.

The windows were made up of 130 panels, each of which were in need of repairs. The window frames also needed to be replaced due to moisture damage. Total, there were about 5,000 individual pieces of glass. We determined that approximately 700 of these pieces would need to be replaced completely.

We contacted a stained glass manufacturer based in the U.S. about the replacement pieces. They were able to develop a custom formula for matching glass based on color, texture, and density.

Meanwhile, we proceeded to make as many of the repairs as possible. To save time, we used the existing glass to restore as many windows as we could while we waited for the new parts to arrive. A local mill was brought in to recreate the wooden window frames. Then, when the glass arrived, we finished the rest of the windows. All of this was completed in about six months.

tulsa ame church memorial stained glass

Memorial Stained Glass Window for the Vernon A.M.E. Church

In addition to repairing the existing windows, we also built a new memorial window. There was a stained glass window that was missing, so we thought that a memorial window would be a good replacement. This we donated to the church free of charge.

To finance the repairs, the church held a fundraising campaign. This was a great success. Several anonymous donors stepped forward and contributed to the repairs.

 

Project Outcome

The best part of this project was seeing the church’s reaction. The members were overjoyed with the results. The pastor was so happy he even kissed the stained glass windows!

historic church stained glass tulsa

We are so grateful and honored that we were given the opportunity to be part of this project. It is an experience that we will always remember and cherish for years to come.

 

Learn More

For more information on this project or our stained glass restoration services for churches, please contact our office.

Martin Faith has dedicated his life's career to the study, preservation, and exploration of one of the world's most beautiful and rare forms of art. For the past 30 years, he has been running his stained glass studio based out of Fort Worth, Texas. Martin's company specializes in an array of stained glass styles, ranging from traditional to contemporary, including Mackintosh, Greene & Greene, art nouveau, art deco, prairie, beveled glass, and religious. He has personally overseen numerous restorations for churches during which rare and valuable glass was saved from extinction. Over the years, he and his team have produced over 50,000 stained and leaded glass windows for homes, churches, and buildings in Fort Worth and throughout the continental U.S.

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