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A lot of work has been going on at the Cultural Arts Center lately. Some is easily seen, like the new steps in the front of the historic church building, or the new, larger stage area.
Other work is lower-key, like the masonry repairs, which are being done to blend seamlessly with the original brickwork and plaster.
On Monday, Aug. 12, the building took on some of its original, very visible character with the installation of two restored stained glass windows, thanks to the craftsmanship of Dan Strick, owner of Strick Stained Glass Restorations in Indian Trail, N.C. Strick restored the top arches of the windows earlier, and was selected again to finish the rest.
You could call him a “stained glass cowboy.” Wherever he goes, he’s always wearing his cowboy hat, western boots and jeans. He does most of his work on the road, from his “traveling studio,” a large, specially up-fitted cargo trailer he pulls to the work site.
His work is in demand up and down the East coast and as far West as Texas. The CAC window is an exception, as restoration is being done from his “stationary” studio at home.
Strick takes his work very seriously, and has turned down jobs, because “they didn’t want to do it authentically.” The CAC windows presented a few challenges. One is the lead came that separates each piece of glass in the design. It is narrower than the one-quarter inch standard in most antique stained glass.
“There’s no room for error,” he said. “Just a tiny fraction off on one piece will throw the whole design out.”
Other challenges Strick faced was finding glass to match pieces that were destroyed. Two of the colors could be closely matched by custom manufacturing, but the wine-red used in the original windows can no longer be made, due to EPA environmental restrictions, because the color contains materials that are considered hazardous in the manufacturing process, he said.
Strick said he carefully saved all the original red pieces they could find, to re-use in the restoration – part of the surviving window elements removed and stored until funds were raised to pay for the restoration.
The bottom sections of all the original windows had been broken by vandals, leaving gaping entrance to the elements.
To protect the building from further damage, clear windows were installed to seal out the elements. But the damage left a puzzle for Strick to solve before he could begin – what did the original design look like?
Working from an old photo of the building, enlarged many times, he believes he was able to closely approximate the original.
These first two windows represent the beginning of a project which requires extensive, skilled work, research and considerable financial investment.
Funding for these two was provided through a gift in memory of the late John Edwin and Wilma Faulkenberry Craig and the late Eloise Robinson Craig.
The Preservation Society hopes others will step forward to fund windows through memorial gifts, endowments, or groups working together to raise the money. The cost to restore a window is $15,000. Strick donated part of the actual price because of his own personal commitment to the project.
The reward, he said, is beyond just the physical restoration. From his experience with other restorations, he said it restores the congregation.
In this case, he believes his work will help restore Lancaster’s sense of community. That’s something you can’t put a price tag on, he said.
Your help is needed to continue the work. Donations of any size are welcome. Get involved with the Society’s work by becoming a member. Mail your donation or membership fee to the Lancaster County Society for Historical Preservation, P.O. Box 1132, Lancaster, SC 29721.
For more information, call Society President Lindsay Pettus, at (803) 285-9455, or pick up a donation flyer at events being held at the CAC.
Nita Brown with Lancaster County Society for Historical Preservation.