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Church volunteer leads effort to restore historic church's stained-glass windows

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Linda Monroe stands in front of one of 30 stained-glass windows on Thursday at the United Methodist Church of Ashland. She has spent the past five years raising money to restore the windows. Julia Moore | Daily TidingsJulia Moore
 Posted: 2:00 AM August 27, 2013

Linda Monroe can't keep her eyes off 30 stained-glass windows that bring color, light and meaning to congregants at the United Methodist Church of Ashland.

As a child attending services here, Monroe admits that she often tuned out the minister to quietly gaze at the glass fragments, arranged to create geometric patterns and religious figures.

As an adult, Monroe, 70, has spent the past five years raising money to have all but one of the windows repaired.

A brief look back at Ashland

Pre-pioneer times: Shasta Indians inhabit the land

1852: Abel Helman and others arrive, build a sawmill, then later a flour mill on land that is now an entrance to Lithia Park

1871: The post office shortens the town's name from Ashland Mills

1874: Ashland incorporates

1876: The Ashland Daily Tidings prints first edition

1879: Fire destroys Plaza's wooden businesses; brick storefronts emerge

1908: Women's Civic Improvement Club campaigns for a park along Ashland Creek the same year Lithia water is discovered

1935: First performances of what would become the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Some had pieces cracked from stones being thrown at them or BBs shot through them.

Some had gaps in the lead that allowed the wind to whistle in and chill the room.

Some were patched with duct tape.

Despite their condition, they have stayed in place for more than a century.

The United Methodist Church, at the corner of North Main and Laurel streets, was the first house of worship built in Ashland. Its cornerstone reads 1875, which is a year after the city was incorporated. The original building was completed two years later.

In 1876, the Ashland Daily Tidings' published its first edition, with the editor noting that although the city didn't have a saloon or a church, bottles of whisky were available and circuit-rider ministers preached at the schoolhouse.

"Therefore, the people are generally happy here," he wrote.

Fourteen families helped build the Methodist church, says Monroe.

Over time, the church building expanded and was significantly remodeled. But its sturdy wood walls still frame a glass treasure trove that is noticed by church visitors, passers-by and, unfortunately, vandals.

There have been other sources of damage, too. Traffic vibrations on Main Street, sun exposure and opening the windows for ventilation also have worked to weaken the heavy pieces of glass.

"I can't let them fall apart," says Monroe, who was baptized at the church. "It is a privilege to have these works created by the Povey Brothers glass company. These represent art and beauty."

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, when mansion owners, civic leaders and church members in Oregon wanted majestic art glass to illuminate rooms, they commissioned the Povey Bros. Studio of Portland, which was known as the Tiffany of the Northwest.

Brothers David, John and George Povey came from a long line of stained-glass craftsmen. They moved to Portland and established the first decorative window company there in 1888.

They imported the glass from Europe, and designed, painted and constructed the windows at their studio.

When the Ashland church was remodeled in 1911, the Poveys were hired to create multipanel windows, according to Monroe.

The centerpiece is a 10-foot-long arched window, called Christ Praying in the Garden. Its intricate, fired, painted pieces make it the most valuable of the windows here.

It also is the final window to be restored because the project will cost $28,000.

Nevertheless, it needs to be done. Fast.

The middle section bows, and experts fear the entire window could fall.

"Someone threw a rock at the window a while back and cracked the protective Plexiglas," says Monroe, who lives in Medford with her husband Dale. "If we had not had it protected, our window would have been destroyed."

She says she is determined to save this window for the next generations.

Church members, the community and visitors have raised about $10,000 of the needed money.

When they reach beyond the halfway point — about $6,000 more by Sept. 1, they hope — Monroe says they can move pews, erect scaffolding inside and out, take out the window, stabilize it, and transport it to Tim and Dal Yockey of Canterbury Stained Glass in Ashland.

The Yockeys, who specialize in preserving vintage stained glass, will take the window apart, clean it and cut replacement pieces. There will be at least 12 different firings and special caning created.

"We will have four months to raise the rest of the money," says Monroe, and then the window will be reinstalled with reinforcement bars and an acrylic cover outside.

Until then, plywood would temporarily conceal the opening.

Monroe winces.

Then she smiles, saying, "It will look awful for a while, but there is nothing better to encourage donations than seeing scaffolding and plywood where beautiful stained glass used to be."

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or jeastman@dailytidings.com.

A local historian says the stained glass was manufactured in Kokomo, IN. The remodel of the historic sanctuary and the installation of the Povey windows were in 1908.



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