AKRON, Ohio — Wendy Joliet found herself in the middle of an unusual rescue mission last month at a church demolition site near downtown Akron, Ohio.
"The wrecking ball was ready to hum and go right through the windows," said Joliet, who along with her husband, Robert, owns Studio Arts & Glass in Jackson Township, Ohio. "I couldn’t bear the thought of Christ being destroyed, so we went and got the windows out. The next day, the building went down."
The leaded stained-glass windows — one depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd and the other an image on Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane — adorned the former Church of the Good Shepherd (United Methodist).
Built in 1923, the church was razed last month and a McDonald’s restaurant and office building will be constructed on the site at 785 S. Main St. The congregation merged in 2009 with Church of the Master to form Faith Family United Methodist Church.
The windows are being restored to their original condition by the team at Studio Arts & Glass. The months-long process will include cleaning and repairing the windows, which have visible signs of deterioration and years of dirt buildup.
Craftsmen at the studio will scrap the lead for recycling, replace broken pieces, touch up the paint, apply glaze and frame the restored windows for display at the studio.
"We will light them and put them in the gift shop," Joliet said. "It will be nice that people can come in and see them, but I hope they can find a home."
The Rev. Ron Shultz, pastor at Family of Faith, said he was unaware the windows were being restored but welcomed the news. He said that when the church sold the building to Rubber City McDonald’s, the windows went with it.
"One of the main concerns of members of the congregation was that somehow the building could live on," Shultz said. "Those windows mean a lot to our members and we will, at least, have a conversation about whether we will be able to reacquire them."
Shultz praised representatives of the McDonald’s company for their efforts in salvaging items from the building for reuse, with proceeds from the sale of items going to Family of Faith.
Church pews went to other congregations. Parts from the dismantled pipe organ went to other churches and organ builders. Lighting fixtures were restored at Studio Arts & Glass and will become part of the decor at a restaurant being built in New York City.
Studio Arts & Glass at 7945 Strauss Ave. NW specializes in custom leaded stained glass for homes and churches. In addition to restoration, the company creates art glass windows, skylights, screens, lamps and ceilings.
Robert Joliet, who earned his undergraduate degree in fine arts (with a focus on painting and art glass) at Kent State University, creates traditional and contemporary designs. The artistic glass is created and installed by the company.
The studio sells unique items in its gift shop, including lawn art, jewelry, blown glass, ornaments, scarves, lamps and stained glass. Classes that focus on a variety of topics — stained glass, bead making, lamps, mosaics, lead, panels and glass boxes — are available at the studio.
Group tours that allow visitors to shop and see stained-glass windows being fabricated are also available. Annual events at the studio include a summer garden art show, a fall festival of art and a holiday open house during the Christmas season.