From the RiverEast News Bulletin, February 28, 2014
Restored Windows Coming to St. Peter’s
by Geeta Schrayter
The construction of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hebron was completed in 1826. Located at 30 Church St. and the reason for the road’s name, the church was built from bricks made in a local kiln and woodwork done by a local builder. According to the church website, when all was said and done, Bishop Thomas Brownell, who consecrated the building, deemed it “the second most beautiful church in the diocese.”
Although some of the original structure is no longer there, like the Gothic battlements, turrets and pinnacles which didn’t hold up in New England weather and were removed within 30 years, one of the early features still remains: the 11 stained glass windows that rise elegantly on each side of the church, erupting in color when the sun hits them the right way while al lowing light to stream through the building.
And now, work is being done to ensure those windows remain where they are and receive some much needed TLC. They are, after all, nearing 200 years old.
Thomas Sayers, a parishioner at the church who has spearheaded a restoration project for the windows, explained this week he first realized they needed some attention while preparing for last Easter.
“There were some people, including my wife and I, decorating the church for Easter, putting flowers up, and somebody said we need to put a couple of flowers on the windowsill,” he stated. “So I grabbed a plant and went over to a sill.”
Although Sayers said he doesn’t really know what made him glance up at the window, he did so, and realized the window was buckling and the glass was cracked. Upon further examination, he discovered it wasn’t an isolated incident.
”Two were buckled, all of them had cracks and some had missing glass,” he said.
And so, he started asking questions and contacted companies that restore stained glass windows and discovered the buckling was a result of the deteriorating lead frames.
“The lead not only holds the glass pieces together but supports the window, so as they deteriorate all the weight is going down and that’s causing the buckling and the cracking,” he said.
To fix the windows, each one will need to be removed and sent to a restoration company. The church chose Stained Glass Resources in Hampden, Mass., and has already sent along two windows to be restored. The process includes taking the window apart and repairing or replacing the fractured glass. If the restorers feel the glass can be repaired, they’ll do so. If not, they’ll replace the glass, utilizing their onsite artists to paint the new glass to match what they’re getting rid of.
“After all the repair work is done” Sayers furthered, “then they’ll totally re-lead the window, put all the glass in the window and waterproof it, “thereby adding 80-100 more years to their life.
The focus is currently on eight of the 11 windows at the church – on the north and south sides – and the cost of repairs has been estimated between $152,000 and $154,000. Presently, $52,000 in commitments has been made by parishioners.
Sayers explained each window has two sections, and a plaque will be put up in honor of, or memory of whomever funds a section or an entire window.
He called the project important because, well, it was better than the alternative.
“We have two options. One is to restore them, and the second is to leave them alone, and if we do leave them alone and not do anything, eventually they will be beyond restoring,” he said.
And with them would go some town – and state – history. One of the windows, Sayers shared, contains the inscription “Gov. John S. Peters, a liberal benefactor of this church. “Peters was the 11th lieutenant governor and 26th governor of Connecticut. He was born in Hebron in 1772, died in 1858 and was buried at the church.
Another window acknowledges General Andrew Welles, who was born in 1783 and died in 1850. Still another was given in memory of the Phelps family, whose descendants, Sayers noted, are still members of the church.
“As in most churches with stained glass windows, it was common practice at that time if there was somebody of importance, to give the window in memory of them, “Sayers explained. “All of these eight windows have been given that way.”
Sayers said he felt a major reason for the inclusion of stained glass windows in a church was their beauty, and St. Peter’s rector, the Rev. Everett “Perry” Perine, furthered that point.
“Stained glass is part of the beauty of church buildings,” Perine said. “I think stained glass became a way not only of enhancing the space but of enhancing worship. It reflects something of the beauty of God’s creation.”
Perine also said the windows were a tangible way to recognize benefactors of the church who have supported the parish. In addition, he explained, the tradition of stained glass windows dated back to the Middle Ages, when they were used for a bit of education as well as aesthetics.
“Originally the whole point, at least in Europe, was that you were dealing with illiterate people in the Middle Ages,” he explained, “and windows and pictures were ways of getting across who we are as a people and stories.”
Perine continued, “It’s a combination of added beauty, enhancing the liturgy of the church, but also as a way to give thanks to the people who have been important to the church in the past.”‘
Speaking on the restoration, Perine said he was excited about the project.
“It’s always wonderful, I think. to be able to preserve things that, in the case of the windows, are part of the town of Hebron’s history,” he stated. “We’re really excited about that – we’re excited we can do it and certainly excited about the support we’ve had from parishioners and the potential support we seem to be getting from outside the parish.”
And that support has extended to Town Hall, where Town Manager Andrew Tierney crafted a letter of support to accompany a grant application for up to $15,000 from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.
Tierney called the church “a treasured symbol of Hebron’s fabric of life,” and said the restoration project “represents critical maintenance to preserve this treasure for the next I00 years.”
Tierney went on to say restoring the windows at St. Peter’s would help with the town vision of “developing the town’s economic vitality while sustaining the historic significance which is represented through our existing infrastructure.”
Tierney encouraged Connecticut Trust to fund the grant request, and acknowledged “the tremendous impact that St. Peter’s has throughout Hebron and our surrounding communities” as represented through community dinners, collaborative programming, support of the town’s youth programs and special celebrations. For information on the restoration project, contact Perine at the church at 860-228-3244 or Sayers at 860-467-6580.