The Vernon Chapel AME Church History
Founded in 1905, the Vernon AME Church originated in a brick basement that was left in ruins after the events of June 1, 1921. The church played a crucial role during this unfortunate time of destruction, becoming a significant monument to the community. While homes, businesses, and schools were destroyed, the church was able to continue offering refuge, normalcy, and hope. Through societal perseverance, the Vernon AME Church succeeded in its expansion and reconstruction efforts in 1928. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in August 2018.
Prior to restoration, these windows are believed to have not been touched since they were originally installed. This photo shows the exterior pre-renovation.
Today, the momentous church is devoted to providing for both the hearts and stomachs of those in need. Despite the limited funding, Vernon continues to succeed in its efforts to feed and provide PPE to unemployed families. As the Vernon AME Church continues its extraordinary services to the Greenwood community, the iconic property is undergoing a much-deserved restoration. The 100% community-funded multi-million dollar renovation project includes considerable conservation efforts for its eye-catching, antique stained glass windows as well as the property’s floors, roof, wiring, plumbing, and more.
Prior to restoration, dirt, cracks, patches, and mismatched glass were common. This photo shows a close-up pre-renovation.
Stained Glass Restoration Project Background
We’re honored to be the only studio chosen to submit a restoration proposal in the effort to preserve the original 131 stained glass panels housed in the chapel. Our founder and master stained glass artisan, Martin Faith, completed a detailed assessment of the stained glass windows, determining the causes of deterioration and crafting a comprehensive plan for conservation. While the original manufacture of the glass was high quality, the windows had a myriad of issues attributed to age and trauma from sun damage, severe weather events, and vandalism throughout the years. The wooden frames experienced severe rotting which accelerated the deterioration of the glass, and will be replaced for sound structural integrity. Much of the lead came was warped, causing the panels to have a convex/concave appearance. The warping panels further caused the steel brace bars to separate which increased the rate of deterioration. Over the years, the glass had been replaced as a result of storm damage and vandalism. Repairs used to replace the broken pieces didn’t match the original glass, giving the windows a patchwork appearance and significantly impacted the value.
Here we see more cracks as well as the build-up of dirt and grime.
In order to properly conserve these historic windows, the industry-leading restoration team will implement proprietary techniques for restoring antique value and ensuring future generations have the opportunity to be inspired by these stained glass panels. Since hundreds of pieces of glass were broken or patched poorly with mismatched glass, the studio is having custom glass made for replacement. To achieve the perfect color match to the original glass, painted glass conservation specialist Maria Sheets will paint layers of color on the custom-blown glass for replication. In addition to restoring damaged and missing glass pieces, the windows will be rebuilt using new lead that’s specially manufactured to have a similar profile to the existing framework but with optimal durability and steel reinforcement. Further proprietary steps to provide at least another century and a half of product life while returning the glass to its former glory will complete the large conservation project.
Every piece was separated from the old lead, cleaned, and rematched to ensure ideal color distribution.
Stained Glass Restoration and Dedication Window
One arched stained glass window was completely missing from the northwest side of the property. Scottish Stained Glass decided to take this opportunity to design a memorial window called the Legacy Window and donate it to this celebrated church. Maria did extensive research on the Tulsa Race Massacre and worked with Vernon AME Church’s Pastor Robert Turner to create the design. The Legacy Window will feature all of the past reverends and their contributions represented through various symbols and illustrations. It will also include past congregation members represented as heavenly hosts and angels as well as a beautiful portrait of Jesus Christ. The process to create this window will require months of glass cutting, glass preparations, painting, and kiln firing of numerous layers of glass pigment and enamels, building the lead came, as well as framing. As a senior art conservator, Maria believes that art is one of the best ways of teaching people about tragic events like this one and that better-informed communities are more empathetic and peaceful places to live.
Pastor Turner is overseeing this once-in-a-lifetime restoration project and believes that it will solidify and strengthen the community for future generations. He understands the importance of reflection and remembering these events as well as the continued impact on the community. If you would like to support the Vernon AME Church’s efforts and ongoing renovations, please visit their website.
Once reinstalled the glass gleamed just like it did when first installed almost a century ago.
Vernon AME Church Stained Glass Restoration News Coverage
As we successfully completed this incredible conservation alongside restoration efforts throughout the rest of this historic landmark, we’re humbled to have had news coverage of this remarkable project. With more and more coverage on this significant landmark, we hope that our nation can continue to learn from our history and celebrate the resilience of this community.
Featured News Coverage
Vernon AME Church to receive preservation help for stained glass windows from national grant
1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission Donates $200K To Vernon AME Church Renovations
Restoring the Grandmother of Greenwood: Vernon AME Church’s stained glass windows installed
Historic Tulsa church begins restoration of stained-glass windows as ‘monument and memorial’ to 1921 Race Massacre survivors
Vernon AME’s stained-glass windows back at the church after restoration
Hundreds Gather At Vernon AME Church For Prayer Wall Dedication On Massacre’s Centennial Anniversary
Watch now: Greenwood stakeholders hope historic designation will unite future efforts to revitalize district
Pastor: ‘There are Tulsas across this country’
Restorations Of Historic Vernon AME Church Honor Legacy Of Survival: ‘This Is The Cornerstone’
Successful Stained Glass Conservation Project
Church Stained Glass Restoration is proud to announce its successful role in restoring the historic Vernon Chapel AME Church’s stained glass windows. This remarkable church is the only standing black-owned structure from the Historic Black Wall Street era and the only edifice that remains from the worst race massacre in American history. Vernon AME Church continues to serve its community by feeding over 1000 Oklahomans during the pandemic while remaining as an important landmark of the Tulsa Race Massacre and symbol of community resilience.
Our conservation efforts have ensured at least another century of product life for their 131 original stained glass panels. We’re honored to have had the opportunity to work on such a historically significant landmark as well as donating a commemorative window memorializing all the important individuals that have played such an incredible role in this community.
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.