Leaded windows being installed

Published 11:22 pm Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Old Rugged Cross Church, where the famous song of that name was written, has been undergoing a long restoration process. It was serving as a hay barn when it was purchased more than a decade ago. (Argus file photo)

The Old Rugged Cross Foundation (ORCF) and the Wardell Art Glass Studio of Aurora, Ill. are installing the first two replica stenciled, leaded glass windows in The Original Old Rugged Cross Church (ORC) sanctuary.

“Installing the first of the ORC Church’s eight windows is a significant milestone,” said Robert Shaffer, ORCF president.

“They will bring the church another step closer to providing the environment the building’s original worshipers experienced,” he said.

Installing the two windows was scheduled to take only a few days.

Richard and Donna Shaffer of Berrien Center and Barbara and (the late) Grafton Cook of Niles funded the two windows.

Wardell Studio owners Evelyn and John Clark began work on the windows in 2010.

They have extensive experience in building and restoring historic windows, including many in buildings from the same era as the ORC Church’s late-1800s expansion and remodel from a barn into a church.

The 30-year-old studio has worked on many window projects across the Midwest.

The building’s original stenciled, leaded glass windows were largely lost to vandalism.

However, hundreds of original glass shards found in the building, one piece of window frame hardware and two boxes of small individual glass panels saved by the church’s previous owner, directed the replica windows’ design.

“To be part of such a special endeavor is a privilege for us,” said John Clark. “It is unusual, and great, to have so much original glass from which to work.

“Our challenge became to create the multitude of stencils required to achieve the window design, and faithfully recreate the windows from the hard evidence of the original windows’ appearance,” he said.

The Clarks used crates to transport the windows in their pickup truck from their studio to the site.

Seven of the eight windows will follow a consistent overall pattern based on the original glass pieces, but will be personalized according to donors’ wishes. The eighth window will be built almost entirely with the original window glass pieces.

That window will be installed in the church’s former kitchen, which will be a museum in the restored building.

So far, donors have funded four of the church’s 9-foot-tall replica windows. The Clarks will begin work on the next two windows later this year.

Four additional windows remain available for funding, including the one containing mostly original glass.

Anyone interested in funding a window can contact the ORCF at (269) 683-4540.

The clear Lexan  panels installed in the church’s window openings several years ago will remain in place after the replica windows are installed, for insulation and protection.

Lexan is a material commonly used in windshields and aircraft canopies.

The church is where, in 1913, composer the Rev. George Bennard of Albion first publicly introduced the final version of his hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.”

The Old Rugged Cross Historic Site is located at 61041 Vermont St., Pokagon.

It is one block south of Pokagon Highway, just east of M-51 (halfway between Niles and Dowagiac).

The site includes the half-acre Old Rugged Cross Memorial Garden.  The Original Old Rugged Cross Church is a Registered Michigan Historic Site.

The church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the national level of historic significance.

For more information, contact the ORCF at (269) 683-4540, or P.O. Box 41, Niles, MI 49120 or visit www.the-oldruggedcross.org.