Rose Hills Memorial Chapel is a beautifully designed building located on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California. The chapel sits abreast a large hill in Rose Hills Memorial Park and provides stunning views of the surrounding gardens and San Gabriel Valley. Funeral services are held in the chapel six days a week and hundreds of people come to visit each day to honor the memories of their loved ones. In addition to its three 90 ft spires, picturesque hilltop landscape, and stately modern interior, the chapel also features a set of beautiful Dalle de Verre windows.
The Dalle Glass is made of thick slabs of colorful glass held together with epoxy cement grouting. Each piece weighs up to 90 lbs. The artist also chose to design the windows to have a slight curvature. The windows follow the shape of the wall they’re attached to, which is also curved, and arches upward and inward towards the ceiling. This gives them a concave shape and makes them look visually striking. Unfortunately, the beautiful windows were starting to deteriorate and some of the pieces were coming loose. Concerned about the safety of their patrons, the owners contacted us as soon as they noticed something was amiss. They asked us to come out to the chapel to inspect the stained glass and assess the damage.
Identifying Concerns with the Stained Glass
When we arrived at the chapel, we carefully looked over the stained glass to evaluate the damage and identify areas of concern. We noticed that some parts of the cement grouting were cracking. Over time, the weight of gravity combined with the intense heat and sun beating down on the stained glass had weakened the structure of the grout. One of the panels had even started to fall inwards and was in danger of coming loose entirely. Upon further inspection, we determined that about 10% of the panels were in critical condition and 30% were in serious condition.
Restoration Process: Methods & Repairs
Because of the heavy nature of Dalle Glass, we had to be creative about the repairs. Usually, our process is to remove the glass and ship it back to our studio. However, the panels were too heavy for us to proceed in our typical manner. Each panel weighed about 90 lbs each. We were also concerned that they were too delicate to ship and would break during transportation. Therefore, we decided to drive out to California so we could complete the repairs onsite, and safely transport them to and from the location.
Another challenge that we encountered was that the owners were very concerned about how the chapel would look while the repairs were in progress. The stained glass is one of the chapel’s most prominent features and is admired by all who come to visit. During funeral services, its presence is calming and uplifting. The owners did not want to detract from their clients’ experience by having them look at ugly plywood while they are honoring their past loved ones.
Therefore, we decided to complete the project in stages. We worked on five to six windows at a time and left the rest in place. We used the first stage to come up with an aesthetically pleasing solution other than boarding up the windows. After weighing multiple options to replace the usual temporary plywood, we used our sister company, Scottish Window Tinting, to create custom graphics which could be used as a placeholder for the missing sections. We took photographs of the panels to be replaced and printed them onto a semi translucent, light diffusing vinyl. We attached the graphics to pieces of clear glass and installed them in place of the sections undergoing repairs. Although nothing can perfectly replace the depth of color and contrast that genuine dalle glass provides, the owners were relieved to see that the quality of the graphics had exceeded their expectations. The temporary graphics enabled Rose Hills to provide their clients with a beautiful facility and smooth continued operation all while being under restoration. We repeated this process in phases until all of the repairs were complete.
As for the repairs, we are happy to say that we were able to salvage the original glass. First, we we removed the sections and took photographs and rubbings to document the original design. Then, we cut the panels apart with a wet saw. Next, we carefully carved out each piece of glass, removing the old epoxy. Then, we repoured the epoxy in the same curved design.
Sand was used to make the original outer coating, this was part of the reason why the windows did not stand up to the test of time. We had to replicate this with something more durable. We found roofing granules to match the original color and placed them between the pieces of glass. Finding matching roofing granules can be difficult, so sometimes we rely on our own coloring methods using different types of chalks and colored gouts to mix with the granules. Next, we poured the epoxy and added the coating of granules inside and out.
We are honored to have been part of this project and thoroughly enjoyed working with the owners of the Rose Hills Memorial Chapel. We are glad that we were able to come up with a solution that allowed the chapel to remain in operation while the repairs were being made. Now, the stained glass no longer poses a safety concern for those who come to visit. Because of the repairs and improvements on the original construction, visitors will be able to enjoy them for many years to come.
Bring new life and beauty to your church with Church Stained Glass Restoration from Scottish. Contact our office to speak to a designer about your project or to receive an estimate on our services.