Vernon Chapel AME Church, OK

Historic Stained Glass Restoration 

church stained glass restoration oklahoma

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.

vernon ame church restoration stained glass

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 church tulsa

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.

vernon ame church stained glass restoration process

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.

tulsa church stained glass restoration

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.

dedication stained glass window tulsa church

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.