Windows Light Up a Church at Night

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First Presbyterian Church gets some gorgeous new windows for its bell tower. 

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Deciding what materials to use in a renovation was taken to a whole new level when the First Presbyterian Church in Clarksville, Tenn., needed to replace its 137-year-old rosette windows. Placed 40 feet above ground in the bell tower, the windows were deteriorating quickly and the church wanted to use materials that would require little maintenance, last much longer, and be cost efficient.

Life-long congregation member Charlie Foust, president of Clarksville Foundry, suggested using cast aluminum to replace the wood frames. “Cast aluminum is corrosion resistant, lighter in weight, and is a stable material. It will be a permanent fix to the challenge of deterioration,” Foust said. He and his team used the wooden frames to create new molds and patterns so that the aluminum frames would replicate the originals. Foust and his team also gave the new frames a powder-coated finish to further protect them from wind, water, dust, and, most importantly, time.  

The church also got new glass to accompany the frames. The original hand-colored stenciled glass had faded since its installation when the church was first built, so the congregation opted for new stained glass. They hired local artist Miranda Herrick to design the pattern and brought in Emmanuel Stained Glass Studio to create each glass petal of Herrick’s design.

Because the bell tower is a small space inaccessible to the public, it is impossible to see the windows from inside the church. In order to showcase the brilliance of the windows more effectively, the church made an unconventional choice: They decided to have the windows lit. Tommy and Rosemary Page, independent lighting consultants for the project, teamed up with ImagiLux of Eugene, Ore., to engineer LED panels to place behind the stained glass. The infant technology has LED lights around the perimeter of the panel and creates an even glow that lets passersby enjoy the brilliance of the stained glass at night. The panels can be lit from 0 to 100% power and are programmable. “They’re on a timer,” said Foust. “They come on around sunset and are programmed to go off at midnight.” 

The cost of the entire project was almost a third of the total cost for replacing the windows using the traditional method. And the team's gamble on a new technology paid off: the glow created by LED panels allows the congregation to enjoy the beauty of the stained glass, even without the benefit of natural light. The path that the technology will take is unknown, but it could prove be a great asset to remodelers who want to add a little extra flair to a window or door in future projects.