Stained Glass Restoration for the Vernon A.M.E. Church in Tulsa

stained glass restoration vernon ame church tulsa

Tulsa is a city full of beauty, character, and history. Today, it is home to two very-well known universities, as well as numerous museums, parks, and an attractive array of art deco buildings. But modern Tulsa is far different from the city it once was.

The truth is, Tulsa was once the site of a large and violent race massacre which took place in 1921. The affected area was known as “Black Wall Street” and was home to an affluent African American community. During this terrible event, over 300 lives were taken and numerous homes and buildings were burned to the ground. The event recently saw its 100 year anniversary on June 1st.

During the riot, residents were forced to flee their homes in order to escape the violence. Some were fortunate enough to find shelter in the basement of a nearby church, known as the Vernon A.M.E. Church. Scottish Stained Glass recently had the opportunity to be part of the restoration of the church’s historic stained glass windows.

About the Vernon A.M.E. Church

The Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church not only played a pivotal role in helping to protect its community during the 1921 Massacre, but also continues to support nearby residents in many ways today. Each day, the church gives out meals to the community’s homeless population, ensuring that none of the area residents go hungry. The community holds the church in high regard, not only for its past and symbolic meaning, but its contributions today.

Identifying a Concern with the Church’s Historic Stained Glass Windows

Recently, it came to attention of the church that their historic stained glass windows were in need of restoration. During the 1921 massacre, much of the church was ruined. However, residents took it upon themselves to rebuild using their own funds. When the church was rebuilt in 1928, a set of stained glass windows were added. Today, they are about 100 years old. And up until recently, were in bad shape.

There were several issues that needed to be addressed with the stained glass. The window frames made of wood were rotting and needed to be replaced. Furthermore, the weather and intense wind that’s so common in Tulsa had done some serious damage on its own. It became clear that if something was not done soon, the stained glass could deteriorate to the point where it would be beyond repair. That’s when we were called in.

Our Restoration Methods

Our first step was to evaluate the condition of the stained glass. There were approximately 130 large panels that needed to be evaluated and repaired. During our inspection, we discovered that there were approximately 5,000 total pieces of individual glass and about 700 of them needed to be replaced completely.

A local mill company was hired to replace the rotting window frames. Meanwhile, we commenced the process of repairing the panels. We contacted a manufacturer of stained glass that we knew of which had been in business for over 120 years. They were able to determine a formula for recreating the damaged glass pieces that would need to be replaced. Through this process, they would be able to generate replica pieces with the same color, density, and texture.

Normally, we would wait for the new glass to arrive before beginning repairs. But in this case, we had to begin right away because the church was on a tight deadline. While the new glass was being manufactured, we salvaged what we could from the remaining pieces and rebuilt as many of the windows as possible. Then, when the new glass arrived, we were able to finish the rest.

Donations & Fundraising

In addition to the stained glass, there were other aspects of the church that needed to be repaired. This included several structural issues. In an effort to finance the repairs, the church held a fundraising campaign.

The campaign ended up being quite successful. Several anonymous donors stepped forward. In total, approximately $1.5 million was raised to finance the repairs.


Once the panels were fully repaired and reassembled, our next step was to re-install the stained glass. We decided to add a protective covering to aid with its future preservation. Normally, this covering is simply added on top of the stained glass. However, since this was a historic building, we had to be creative so as to avoid altering its exterior appearance. Instead, we coverings that were the same size as the stained glass panels. These were then inserted into the window frame as a single unit. This way, there would be no extra framing or changes that would be visible from the exterior.

A Gift from Scottish Stained Glass

While most of the stained glass was able to be repaired, there was one window which was missing from the building entirely. As a solution, we decided to create a new stained glass window which could be used to fill in the empty area. Our most talented artisans were assigned to the task and were able to produce a beautiful memorial window as remembrance of the church’s critical role in the 1921 Race Massacre.

tulsa ame church memorial stained glass

The new memorial window holds a value of approximately $25,000. As a way to show our appreciation for the church and acknowledge their work for the community, Scottish Stained Glass donated the memorial window as a gift.

Church Thrilled with the Results

When the entire process was complete, we were extremely satisfied and so were the church members. In fact, the pastor was so overjoyed with the results that he actually kissed the stained glass!

historic church stained glass tulsa

Photo credit: Tulsa World

At Scottish Stained Glass, we are so grateful that we had the opportunity to be part of such an amazing project. We are honored to be able to give back to the community and to church that helped save so many lives on that eventful June day in 1921.

Learn More About the Project

For more information on our work for the Vernon A.M.E. Church in Tulsa or our stained glass restoration services in general, please contact our office. We will be happy to answer any questions you have and provide you with additional information.

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