Bridging the Past with the Present: A Story of Restoration and Devotion

Bridging the Past with the Present: A Story of Restoration and Devotion

by Dr. Pamela C. Crosby, Crossroads & Historical Society Publications Editor

Hanging on the north wall of the Yates Heritage Center at Trinity is a beautiful, multi-colored stained glass panel. It had once shared its earlier home with other stained glass windows adorning the 1893 church building. Empire Glass and Decoration Company in Atlanta (1889 – 1935) had created the arched and pointed panel that likely functioned as a transom over a door.

In 2014, Linda Yates, Nancy Vaughn, and Bob Yates shown reading historical documents in what is now called the Yates Heritage Center. Behind them hangs the 1893 stained glass panel.

Its story, however, almost ended tragically.

A day after a powerful storm passed through Tallahassee in March 2016, a few of us met in what was then called the “Heritage Room” on third floor to organize Trinity’s Historical Society. We found that the storm had not only damaged the church’s elevator but had caused the glass panel to fall and hit the floor, breaking much of it—some of it in tiny pieces. Brett Ingram, Trinity’s facility director, had gathered the broken pieces and frame in a box and stored the contents in the craft room next door.

The broken window

Fortune was with us, however. One of the founding members of our Society who met with us that day was Bob Jones, a stained glass artisan and historian with decades of experience working with leaded glass. He examined the damage and came up with a plan to repair it.

Bob’s plan included identifying the origin of the loose pieces and looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the assembly. He decided that the most suitable site for the repair of the glass was in the corner of room 307, the Betty Phifer Advanced Studies classroom. Here it would occupy its temporary home on a round table where Bob could come into church and work on repairs.

Initially, Bob sketched a pattern of the panel on paper, and over the years, mended breaks with solder applied to copper foil or clear silicone, cut through solder joints, moved the upper section free of the bottom, placed it back in the frame, and continued to solder the remaining needed areas.

The above diagram is an inked tracing of a lead-rubbing tracing of the damaged window when it was first laid on a table.

After its repair, and after a few years in a closet, the 1893 stained glass panel (with the help of Brett Ingram and Rev. Dr. Matthew Williams) was mounted in February 2023 in its former home—on that north wall of the Yates Center. For all those years of work, Bob has refused any compensation; instead, he has requested that any insurance money that has been given to the church be
directed to Historical Society projects.

Our Historical Society and Trinity UMC honor the faithfulness of Bob Jones for his patient, dedicated work in this restoration process. For those of us who do not have Bob’s skill and experience, it is difficult to know the expertise, effort, and time involved in this project. But we can all enjoy the stained glass panel’s beauty and note its historical significance as a symbol of how faithful individuals in our congregation can bridge the past and present. We invite our members and visitors to visit the Yates Heritage Center and say a prayer of thanks to all who have been involved in the story of this beautiful piece of art.

In 2019, Bob Jones explains the steps of the restoration process (in its temporary home in the Betty Phifer Advanced Studies classroom) to the Historical Society and Committee for the Preservation of Church History.

To “travel” with Bob on his journey restoring the stained glass panel, please go to these past issues of Crossroads:


Contact Pam Crosby, Crossroads and Publications Editor for Trinity’s Historical Society at pcrosby@tumct.org for more information. Visit our extensive history website including online church archives at https://www.tumct.org/welcome/about/history/

The stained glass panel, repaired by artisan Bob Jones, was returned to its former place in the Yates Heritage Center in February 2023. Brett Ingram and Rev. Dr. Matthew Williams completed the ongoing project by mounting the prized art piece on the wall.