- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

SPEARFISH, S.D. (AP) - They’re back - and sparkling like new, lighting up the inside of the Episcopal Church of All Angels at 1044 N. Fifth St., Spearfish, with a myriad of colors.

“We’re just overjoyed to have them back,” Father J. Clay Riley said of the 14 stained glass windows that are original to the church, which was put into service in 1898. The windows were removed in the fall to be restored at Classic Glass Ltd., in Fargo, North Dakota.

“People feel like they’re home again,” Riley added, describing that since the windows were put back in place in February, members of the congregation have commented on how bright and beautiful the windows appear following the work to dismantle, clean in lye, relead, and resolder the historic windows. Stained glass windows should be restored or releaded about every 80 to 100 years because at that age, stained glass will begin to bulge and crack, and the lead holding the pieces of glass together deteriorates.

That was true of the windows at All Angels; when removed, some were bowed, with one very precariously in place and missing the exterior stops on the ledge, so that if enough force had been exerted, it would have fallen out. And one of the windows behind the altar had blown out of the church in the past and had to be remade. Otherwise, though, the windows have appeared as they had since the late 1890s, and restoring the windows was discussed by congregants for many years but did not become a reality until recently because of the scope and cost of the project.

The Black Hills Pioneer (https://bit.ly/2lTg9XG ) reports the overall project cost about $52,000 to undertake, and the church received $20,000 through the 2016 Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission’s Outside of Deadwood grant program to assist with the project.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Riley said, voicing the church’s appreciation to the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission.

Once the windows were transported to the Classic Glass Ltd. studio in Fargo, workers made a pattern or rubbing of each of the windows, labeling and making notes of each type and piece of glass before taking them apart and then rebuilding them, piece by piece, like new, just as they were more than a century ago.

Two of the three faces in the church’s chancel windows portraying St. Paul, St. John and Christ knocking at the door were cracked and had to be sent to England. New glass faces were hand-painted and returned to the windows, and any other pieces of glass that needed to be replaced were matched to new glass, since Kokomo Opalescent Glass, where the glass from the windows originally came from, is still in existence. The colors of the glass, as well as the Christian symbols referenced throughout the windows and the writing on various windows identifying memorials to past church members, stand out very clearly following the project.

Bob Mayer was All Angel’s junior warden when the project started and described that in addition to the appearance of the windows, the project also included the installation of new protective exterior windows that provide higher R-value, the ability of a material to resist heat traveling through it, creating better insulation and efficiency for the church.

“We’ve been entrusted with the resources to take care of this building,” he said, explaining that he is now working on the trim around the windows.

While the stained glass windows were being restored, congregants at All Angels heard from members of the community asking about where the windows had gone - reinforcing their knowledge that the windows are an important part of the sacred space, as well as the framework of the community, since as Spearfish grows and changes, the historic church at the corner of North Fifth and West Michigan streets remains one of the cornerstones of its history.

The church is on the National Register of Historic Places and is described as one of the best examples of cutstone building in the Black Hills, with its high Victorian Gothic architecture. According to its history, the church’s construction took nine years, with the building standing as a memorial to Alexander Hamilton, the founder of the nation’s financial system. The National Register describes that “this occurred when one parishioner was visiting New York and met the granddaughter of Hamilton who offered to donate the money for the church’s construction .” to provide a place of worship for Episcopalians in Spearfish. The church began services in the summer of 1889, and a formal service of consecration occurred the following spring by Bishop Hare.

“This is our gem of Spearfish,” Mayer said of the church, adding that its stained glass windows mean something to each person in the community and that they lend to the identity of the church, as well as creating a sacred and welcoming atmosphere.

“It kind of lends to a worship experience, how we come together as a community and why we’re so family-like,” Riley said. “It’s something we all share, is a reverence for this space, and the windows are really a big part of that.”

“And if the windows could talk, boy, would they have a lot of good stories,” Mayer added.

Riley thanked everyone who brought the project through to completion, from the All Angels property committee members to the Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission to Classic Glass Ltd. to the congregation and community.

“It’s wonderful to have them back in again. It feels like home again,” he said, adding of the church, “This is something to appreciate, because they don’t build them like this anymore.”

All Angels was also awarded $5,510 to replace its doors as part of round one of the 2017 Outside of Deadwood grant program, and Mayer said the new doors would extend all the way to the bottom of the stained glass window above the front doors.

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Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, https://www.bhpioneer.com

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