Brightening old stains

By Jessica Kalin

Greens and golds once again will illuminate the stairway of the DeKalb County Courthouse when the historic stained glass windows are replaced at the end of the month.

The courthouse has been without the decoration of the windows since August when the glass was taken out to be refurbished.

Usually, glass needs refurbishing every 100 years to extend the life of the glass. Refurbishing stops any bending of the glass and keeps cracks from forming and makes the window watertight, said Neil Vogel, consultant for the project and principal of Restoric, LLC. The glass will also be re-leaded and cleaned to brighten it.

Delivered from the New York Cathedral Glass Company, the 8-foot stained glass windows originally cost $1,934.10 in 1924.

The glass was removed from the courthouse July 31 and was taken by crate to Botti Studios in Evanston to be re-leaded.

The project will cost DeKalb County taxpayers $30,000 to dismantle the windows, clean and repair more than 100 cracks, said Ken Campbell, DeKalb County facilities manager.

He said the glass itself is without insurance, but the building does carry insurance.

The stained glass windows were an integral part of the design at the time of construction.

“There is usually a design or artistic relationship between the glass and the building,” Vogel said.

When the courthouse was built, the north side of the building lacked a view, so courthouse officials decided on stained glass to remedy that.

“They wanted something attractive; plate glass would be very harsh on the marble steps,” he said.

The glass does more than just decorate the courthouse.

Often, stained glass would hold a hidden meaning to the building it adorned, Vogel said. The strips of darker colored glass create a series of “bars” that may represent the correlation to the legal system.

Done in a classical motif, Vogel said the colors in the glass were popular at the turn of the last century.

The last time the windows were worked on, in the 1960s or ’70s, some of the pieces of glass were put back in backwards and the size of some of the lead had been changed, which changed the appearance of the windows.

Vogel said they are restoring the windows to the original look.

By comparison, Vogel said the courthouse panels are enormous. Usually, windows’ dimensions are 3 or 4 feet, but the 8-by-6 windows took eight to 10 men to remove.

After the windows are replaced, “Everyone needs to go in and tour the courthouse; the windows are beautiful,” said DeKalb court historian Phyllis Kelley.