Original historic church windows undergo restoration
HUGHESVILLE – “A wonderful masterpiece!” That’s what some people exclaim when watching craftsman Daryl Strick work on refurbishing the stain glass windows at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Hughesville. From Liverpool, Strick learned the trade of restoring old church windows from his father who is in his mid 80s and still practices the art. Strick said he has been working on stain glass, mostly in churches, since he was 12. “It is a one man job,” he said and a family business. He has a brother who lives in North Carolina and builds new stain glass windows for churches.
The windows at the Hughesville church date back to the late 1800s. Ann Hess, a member, says she remembers the church cornerstone being laid in August 1884. Two of the windows measure at least 17 feet tall and around 7 and a half feet wide.
According to pastor Cinda Brucker, Strick was here five years ago and restored the window on the south side. Last year he did the small round window above the chapel. For the past 30 days, Strick has been working on site restoring the window facing Academy Street. “He has been coming here every day,” said Pastor Brucker. “It is a very tedious process.” Strick said there are places where whole sections are beginning to sag and bow. All of the stained glass windows are original. The challenge is trying to match the colors of the many sections, and Strick said he does this as close as possible. He works on site. During rainy days he works from the inside of the church, and outside during more pleasant weather.
While painting the framed woodwork, Strict said he discovered some signatures scripted onto the glass. This was typical during the 1800s, he explained. The church was dedicated in 1885 and according to member, Karlda Thomas, the building that is currently owned by the East Lycoming Historical Society was the original site for Trinity Lutheran Church. Having evolved from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Muncy Creek township, it was a plain brick structure with a seating capacity of 300. The first service conducted there was on March 9, 1851 by the Rev. George Pasons. D.D., one of the fathers of Lutheranism in Lycoming County. By 1883 there were close to 200 members, and it was decided to build a new church.
According to church records, a soliciting committee was appointed and led by Rev. J.A. Wirt. Construction began on the corner of Main and Academy Streets at a cost of $22,000. A pipe organ was placed in the auditorium for $12,000, and the old church sold for $1,500. Dedication took place on September 13, 1885 and was known as the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hughesville.”
A new charter was set up in 1907 and the name “Trinity” was incorporated, thus named Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hughesville.
Some interior renovations were done in 1915, however it probably did not include the windows which are now over 130 years old. “I am doing it just the way they did it,” Strick said regarding the process of restoration. He does everything on location, working from a large trailer truck with his tools and equipment on the parking lot not far from the window. He calls this his “mobile glass shop.” Other companies will remove the window, take it back to their location and restore it from there, but Strick prefers to work on each section from the scaffolding in the church. He uses real glass for the storm windows, not plexi-glass as some competitors prefer.
Meticulously, he straightens the parts that have buckled from the heat and re-leadens them. “I will not remove the window to ship out,” he added. “These windows have a lot of lead that is original. The newer lead is sturdier, easier to use and gives them more support.” He explains that over time the lead compresses and expands from season to season. “The smaller sections are more likely to buckle,” he said as he replaces the broken glass. He cuts the pieces to size from big sheets of glass.
This can be a real challenge, he said, when trying to balance the windows on the scaffolding and not be able to touch any live electrical wires that may be close by. He angles it so he can cut it perfectly. It is a skill to cut and match it for a perfect fit. “I will not use plastic,” he said, “because it eventually yellows.” He also repaints all the original wooden frames by hand, and rebuilds any if needed to match. For the round window he rebuilt the frame with aluminum which made it easier to bend.
Pastor Bucker said it takes some time to raise the money to restore these windows. “We are pleased with his workmanship because he can make everything original again,” she said. “These are German style windows and some of the panels have names on them.” The names reflect former pastors and donors, and they are tributes to the former members.
While working on the church, Strick said he was amazed how the church sanctuary is being held up by tree stumps. “That’s how they built the foundations back then,” he said, “and they used the columns for extra support in the middle.”
Over the decades the church has gone a series of restorations including an interior uplift by the late designer and painter, Marguerite Bierman who used several shades of pale rose and pink to enhance the redecorated original Victorian trim.
A visit or chat with Daryl is always welcome, he said, or just stop by to watch how this rare skill passes with time.