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After the Fire

Restorations by

Restoration of St. Mary’s Church
Burlington, Wisconsin

After a devastating fire gutted
St. Mary’s Church in Burlington, Wisconsin, Conrad Schmitt Studios was commissioned to restore the damaged and destroyed stained glass windows and the interior decoration. Coincidentally, Studio archives revealed that CSS had decorated St. Mary’s in 1920. Much of the damaged interior was from that decorative scheme, including the decorative painting, Stations of the Cross, altars, and murals.

St. Mary’s Church before the fire

The raging fire that destroyed all but the exterior walls of the church

View from inside the church, of which only a shell remained

Condition of St. Mary’s when the windows were removed

The roof and ceiling of St. Mary’s had been completely destroyed by the fire, but the structure of the vaulted ceiling with ribs and pendants soon was restored. The historic stained glass windows also suffered significant damage. Glass and lead cames were cracked, broken, and melted throughout the stained glass windows.

Over 3,000 square feet of St. Mary’s unusually fine windows, circa 1870, were cracked or melted by the heat. This transept window was broken for the firefighters’ hoses.

Scaffolding allowed craftsmen to reach the ceiling for plaster replication, decorative painting, and stained glass removal and re-installation.

The restoration of the stained glass windows and the Stations of the Cross was carried out at the well-equipped Studio. The plaster work, decorative painting, and gilding within the church were aided by extensive scaffolding. All of the extensive, specialized work was conducted over the course of more than a year.

Artists at the Studio conserved damaged stained glass, replicated lost stained glass and restored the lead lines.

Stations of the Cross were cleaned and restored with touch-ups and highlighting.

Stained glass artisans re-installed the restored stained glass windows for St. Mary’s.

A rendering of the Studio’s proposed updated layout and decoration

Conrad Schmitt Studios’ watercolor rendering illustrated how the rebuilding of the church interior could be an opportunity to incorporate the tenets of Vatican II into the traditional interior. The communion rail was eliminated, the sanctuary was brought forward on a thrust predella, and the side altars and murals were removed to reduce distractions from the Altar and the Eucharistic celebration. The Altar of Reservation was retained, but in the function of a reredos and receptacle for the Blessed Sacrament.

Parishioners walked through the in-progress interior, before the reredos and seating was re-installed.

"These windows will continue to be a source of faith and inspiration for the people of St. Mary’s--just as they were in the past."
--Fr. Robert Gosma, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Burlington, WI

The restored and renewed St. Mary’s Church of Burlington, Wisconsin

St. John the Baptist
Glandorf, OH

In the early 1990’s, St. John the Baptist
Church in Glandorf, Ohio suffered a fire in the sacristy that destroyed two stained glass windows, harmed three others, and caused smoke damage throughout the interior of the church. Conrad Schmitt Studios’ glass artisans restored the damaged windows and replicated the lost ones, using photographs and existing windows to determine the appropriate style and types of glass.
The historic interior of St. John the Baptist Church

Artists from the Studio cleaned smoke and soot from the walls, ceilings, furnishings and artwork of the fire-scorched church. Then, decorative painting, stenciling, gilding and glazing were reapplied to restore the interior to an updated decorative scheme. Four large oil-on-canvas paintings and murals also were conserved. The main altar was restored, and two side altars were polychromed and gilded. The Stations of the Cross and several others statues were washed, cleaned, in-fill painted and highlighted to return them to their original appearance. One year after the fire, the beauty of the historic St. John the Baptist Church was restored.

The restored and liturgically updated interior of St. John’s

Replication of 26 Windows Destroyed by Fire
for Delta United Methodist Church, Delta, Colorado

In 1995, Conrad Schmitt Studios was commissioned by the Delta United Methodist Church in Delta, Colorado to re-create the church’s twenty-six 1910 windows, after the church was destroyed by fire. When Bernard Gruenke, Jr., President of Conrad Schmitt Studios went to investigate the remains of the church, he discovered that the shattered stained glass already had been meticulously cleaned up, and with it the best clues to the original windows. But upon further investigation, he found that some glass had fallen into a parapet. From these--Jesus’ ear, eye, nose and part of his moustache, as well as some background glass, the Studio would be able to deduce the type of glass and painting in the original windows. The reproduction of the overall design was based on photographs-and another lucky break. On a hunch, Bernard Gruenke had gone looking for other churches in the same city that were built near the same time. He found one whose stained glass and window designs were nearly the same as those from Delta United Methodist Church. The Studio’s subsequent search for the stained glass studio of origin led to the discovery that the original glass manufacturer was still in existence and still had the formula for the 1910 glass in its files; therefore, the specific glass was able to be reproduced. The extensive experience of the CSS Stained Glass Studio directors with historic glass and glass painting also enabled them to match the original style of painting and lead caming. When the windows were reinstalled, along with new storm glass, the congregation was gratified with the Conrad Schmitt Studios’ faithful reproduction of this essential part of their worship environment.

"Now that things are settling down, I wanted to write to you and most sincerely thank you and your colleagues at Conrad Schmitt Studios for all the wonderful artistry which you provided in the restoration of our Cathedral. Not only is the work of the highest quality, but it was an enormous pleasure to work with all of those from your studios involved in this project. Their professionalism and immense pride in their work was a joy to be around, and sometimes much in contrast to others involved in the project."
--Trish Pugh Jones, Executive Director, Cathedral Heritage Foundation, Cathedral of the Assumption, Louisville, KY