Saint Peter’s begins process of preserving ‘art’ collection

Published 3:31 pm Sunday, August 10, 2008

By Staff
Stained glass to be restored for future generations
Lifestyles &Features Editor
The Rev. Kevin Johnson, rector of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington, is becoming a bit of an art connoisseur.
But it’s not your typical, watercolor painting on the wall kind of art. This art is of a more historic nature and has been admired by generations of church goers.
The artwork is actually the church’s collection of stained glass windows — 37 in all — displayed in the sanctuary and chapel.
But the church’s collection has been threatened by the elements and the passage of time.
According to Johnson, the deterioration of the windows came to light several years ago when the church was making plans to build a new fellowship hall. During a cursory walk through of the property, it was mentioned that someone needed to take a look at the windows.
That didn’t happen at the time, but when Johnson arrived at Saint Peter’s a year ago the issue of the windows’ condition was again raised.
The church decided on Gene Higgins &Associates of Front Royal, Va. The company has also done work for the Smithsonian and the chapel at Notre Dame.
Some of the windows in question have been a part of the Saint Peter’s facade since the present church was built in 1867.
The church is an important part in the tapestry of the history of Washington.
Although some sources indicate this wooden church was burned by Union forces during the occupation of Washington during the War Between the States, that story is incorrect, according to Cochran.
As it turns out, the Yankees were only indirectly responsible for the destruction of the church.
Now, with the windows at risk, Saint Peter’s sprang into action, beginning what will be a three-year restoration project.
The first windows were removed in May, according to Johnson. Expectations are to have them returned to their original places in early October, at which time another set will be removed and taken for repairs.
During the process, after it was determined that all three dozen windows at Saint Peter’s would be restored, the church made an unexpected discovery.
There was an additional window that had been overlooked.
Along with time and the elements, another “enemy” to the windows turned out to be something that had been installed as a protective measure, according to Johnson.
The restored windows will be protected by a clear, laminated glass covering, with small ventilation screens at the top and bottom for air circulation, according to Johnson.
Saint Peter’s mounted a fundraising campaign to fund the cost of the restoration project, and Johnson said that donations have arrived accompanied by short notes about the contributors’ memories of the church windows.
The Daily News will follow the window project at Saint Peter’s Episcopal as it progresses and other stories will be featured in future editions.