Tarentum church restoring century-old stained glass

Jason Mur, a restorationist with Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios, traces a stained glass window on wood to make a template for the opening at Central Presbyterian Church in Tarentum on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
Jason Mur, a restorationist with Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios, traces a stained glass window on wood to make a template for the opening at Central Presbyterian Church in Tarentum on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
Photo by Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Chuck Biedka
| Monday, May 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

It's a view that hasn't been seen in Tarentum for 101 years.

Sitting on a scaffold high above Allegheny Street, Ralph Mills held the century-old stained glass panel from one of Central Presbyterian Church's windows.

Telling co-worker Jason Mur to get ready as Mur knelt on the edge of the balcony, Mills used a simple scraper to loosen the deteriorating lead holding a multitude of glass pieces together.

It was time to move the panel — one of eight in the window — out of the frame.

With the panel halfway out and the sunshine bursting into the church's balcony, Mur asked Mills to wait. He had to put tape on loose glass.

After that, Mills gingerly pulled the 25-pound, 3-foot panel out of its rusting frame, whispering, “Oh, yeah. Come to papa.”

For the first time since 1913 when the windows were installed, someone could look through outside through the opening created by the missing panel.

“You wonder what happened inside this church in the years the windows were there,” Mur said. “How many services and revivals were held here? How many funerals? How many weddings?”

“Thousands,” said Mills, co-owner of Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios in Pittsburgh's West End.

The company will clean, repair, preserve and reinstall 12 windows for Central Presbyterian. The openings will remain boarded up until the windows are returned by fall, said church leader Dave Rankin.

The windows' true colors haven't been seen in years.

A hundred years of street grime and pollution have seeped between the layers of glass, Rankin said. Protective plastic was installed in the late 1960s to protect the windows from rocks, but it has since yellowed, obscuring the colors.

Church family, donations spearhead repairs

Two Broadfoot sisters married in the church.

Patricia Broadfoot Hill and her sister Joyce Broadfoot Borp remember the window's beauty.

Patricia married Wilbur Hill in 1959 and moved away because of his job. They now live in Buffalo Township. Joyce married James Borp in 1963 when they, too, left the Valley for work. They now live in Saxonburg.

Their grandfather, William P. Broadfoot, was a plasterer by trade and charter member of Central Presbyterian.

Their mother, Gertrude Broadfoot, was a church elder. In 2000, she set aside money to renovate the window to memorialize the Broadfoot family.

The church's plan calls for one sanctuary window, about 8 feet wide and 12 feet tall depicting Jesus the Good Shepherd, and 11 smaller stained glass windows to be cleaned and refitted by the company at its studios.

The Good Shepherd window likely was inspired by the painting of the same name by Bernhard Plockhurst and based on the Bible's John 10:14: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

Church members will use their money, funds from the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Commission and a lesser amount from the Ira Wood Charitable Trust to renovate the first 12 windows.

The congregation doesn't know how or when two large, stained glass windows in the sanctuary will be renovated.

In addition to worship services led by the Rev. Robert Dayton, the church has a Holy Smokes Cafe food ministry, several Alcohol Anonymous meetings, senior citizens line dancing and community dinners.

Each month, the congregation collects new children's undergarments and socks for the clothing closet.

At the Holy Smokes Cafe, people are encouraged to attend worship services upstairs but some choose to remain downstairs to talk and enjoy the reduced price meals.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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