Sally Usher admittedly has a special place in her heart for the giant-sized, multicolor stained-glass windows at the historic chapel on the campus of Concord Baptist Church in Clermont.
Usher said that she heard from her father how in 1919, when he was a young man in his early 20s, he rode his horse and buggy to pick up the windows in Athens.
“My grandfather was a saw miller, and my dad and his brother had the wagons and they hauled crossties to build the railroads through Clermont up to Tallulah Gorge,” Usher recounted. “He had the wagon and the horses to go and get the windows for the church.”
Usher said it’s her understanding that the three windows — about 8 feet wide and 13 feet tall — were brought to the Port of Savannah and taken to Athens by rail.
For almost 100 years, the windows have stood the test of time, rain, sleet and hail. In recent days, they have been taken down to be restored, according to Ann Lucas, president of Window Traditions of Georgia in Johns Creek.
Concord Baptist entrusted the task of taking down the windows to Lucas and Bob Froyen, a stained-glass restoration expert with Llorens Stained Glass Studio and Hardeman Fine Art.
The meticulous work began with Froyen, helped by his wife, Amber, carefully taking out the old leaded glass in pieces from each of the three big windows, and labeling them so he knows exactly where they go.
Froyen said he used a razor, putty knife and an assortment of hooks that he describes as being like dental tools to loosen and remove the stained glass.
Lucas followed by bringing in her workers to remove the rotted frames, install new frames and put in clear glass in the openings so there’s something there until Froyen puts the stained glass back in.
“What’s fascinating to me is that there is a member at the church who has stories about the windows being shipped out here,” Lucas said.
Froyen set aside and labeled 60 pieces, large and small, of leaded glass from the three windows. He said it would take six to eight weeks to complete the restoration.
“They have a wedding scheduled the first week of October and we’d like to finish in time for that,” Froyen said. “It will look like the original when I’m through putting it all together and cementing it.”
Froyen said the task includes handwriting the names of all the pastors at Concord Baptist since its inception, including current pastor, Dr. Levi Skipper — 39 names in all.
Froyen said he’s keenly aware of the history attached to those stained-glass windows and appreciates the work that went into creating them.
“They put their heart into it, so we should follow with the same pride,” Froyen said.
Concord Baptist is investing approximately $79,000 to restore the windows at its historic chapel where meetings, weddings and baptisms are held in a baptismal pool hidden from view, according to church official Betty Walker.
Usher said she’s happy to see church do the restoration those stained glass windows that her father brought to Clermont in horse and buggy almost a century ago.
“We just hated to see them, something that’s been a big part of our history destroyed,” Usher said. “We made a plea that they try to save them. For the members that have been there a long time it was more a sentimental thing, and of course it’s part of our history as a church. We didn’t want it destroyed.”