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City Hall stained glass windows need repairs

Date: 9/20/2011

Sept. 21, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — The beautiful stained glass windows in City Hall are in desperate need of repair and restoration, according to a report commissioned by the city.

In the report, stained glass expert Julie Sloan wrote, “The condition of all 13 windows is extremely poor. All of the windows are in danger of failing, particularly in high winds. Previous restoration efforts have done more to hurt the windows than to help them; the craftsmanship of these repairs is of egregiously poor quality.”

She added, “We strongly recommend that all windows be removed as soon as possible and stored, if restoration cannot be commenced immediately. All of the windows will require complete releading. There is great deal of missing glass, especially in window eight, ‘Music,’ in which a whole section is missing. Some of the missing glass has been replaced with poorly matched and sometimes unpainted glass. Other areas, including the large section of window eight, have been blocked with plywood, cardboard, duct tape, or painters’ blue tape. None of these repairs is appropriate.

“We also recommend that when the windows are restored and reinstalled, they be protected on the exterior with laminated glass storm windows in independent wood frames, vented through the frames to the exterior,” she continued.

None of Sloan’s report came as a surprise to William Fuqua, the director of the city’s Department of Public Works.

The windows, he told Reminder Publications, “have been in really rough shape for many, many years.”

The issue is finding funding, Fuqua said, which has been an ongoing effort.

The cost to restore the windows and to protect them for future generations, according to Sloan’s report, is $613,410.

Fuqua said the repair of the windows has been a priority set by Mayor Elaine Pluta and city officials are looking at various grants to supplement what city funds could be used. Pluta has requested the City Council approve funding for a restoration specialist to assess the next step in the restoration process.

With the Holyoke Library being relocated to the City Hall Auditorium, where the majority of the windows are installed, Fuqua hopes public awareness of the condition of the windows is heightened.

He hopes publicity on the plight of the windows will spur citizens to come forward to help fund the restoration just as Holyokers did in saving the Mountain Park carousel.

Noted stained glass artist Samuel West created the windows in 1876 when the building was constructed. Some of the windows have a patriotic theme — it was the nation’s centennial in 1876 — and some are artistic depictions of the values shaping the young city.

Fuqua noted the lead piping that holds the pieces of the window together is failing. Because of this state, the windows are actually rippled.

“They can only get worse,” he said.

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