by: Reverend Deb Scott and Jackie Noller, Chair, Lovely Lane 21st Century Committee
After her recent visit to historic Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, Melissa Lauber, the Director of Communications for the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, made the following observation: “On a pilgrimage, one crosses a threshold from the ordinary to the extraordinary. The beige and colorless overtones of everyday life are swept away by insights and experiences as the possibilities of living in full color open before you. In its simplest forms, pilgrimage is a journey toward the sacred. These journeys exist in almost every culture throughout history. Hearts are enlivened and lives are changed. But the journey doesn’t have to be gilded in lofty ideals.
Everyday adventures – when marked by intention – allow you to step outside your daily boundaries and be somehow transformed. In many ways tourists, who travel to see and marvel, resemble pilgrims. Their itineraries and destinations are often the same; but pilgrims carry with them a unique quality of curiosity. Their hearts stand wide-open and interior and exterior boundaries blend in unusual ways as they seek a sense of discovery and meaning. ‘Pilgrims‘, said theologian Richard Niebuhr, are ‘poets who create by taking journeys.’” We at Lovely Lane are so grateful to the Maryland Historical Trust for its vision to co-partner to make this capital project possible, making a historic site a destination for both tourism and pilgrimages (Photos #1 and 2).
Lovely Lane United Methodist Church houses the Mother Church of American Methodism in Baltimore. Our extant building was dedicated in 1887 as the centennial monument to the founding of American Methodism. Stanford White — of the New York City firm of McKim, Mead & White — designed the church under the supervision of the pastor, Rev. John F. Goucher. The church was built in the Romanesque style similar to early churches and basilicas in Italy. The church sanctuary and connected chapel occupy over 17,000 square feet, showcasing original black birch altar woodwork, Lathrop and Tiffany windows, a painted celestial ceiling and pipe organs. The square tower, patterned after a 12th century church near Ravenna, Italy, lights the night sky. The building has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1973.
In July 2020, MHT awarded a $100,000 grant from the Historic Preservation Capital Grant Program to Lovely Lane to restore 19th century Tiffany windows in the building’s chapel adjacent to the church sanctuary. The church’s building committee applied for the grant to help finance a catalytic multi-component capital project begun in 2019 to restore and rehabilitate underused space in its building. The larger project goal is to promote greater public use of the historic building and enhance revenue diversity by creating the Lovely Lane Arts & Neighborhood Center within the walls of this urban location. With decades of sound stewardship in place, the congregation believes our well-cared for property is best positioned with rehabilitation to serve the underserved with dignity and to share space with other organizations sustainably.
Restoration of the Tiffany windows in the chapel portion of the 1887 building helped ensure a weather-tight building fabric. With the subsequent installation of a cooling system in this space, the chapel will be able to comfortably host future public performances and exhibitions. The committee hired the restoration firm Worcester-Eisenbrandt, Inc. (WEI) to carry out the exacting work in the fall and winter of 2021. The scope of work included restoration on three floor levels of the chapel’s historic windows: 1) 12-foot archtop-stained-glass windows on the main floor; 2) eyebrow windows on the mezzanine level; and 3) exterior dormer windows on roof level that provide light into interior clerestory tri-partite stained-glass windows (Photo #3). Each level required different restoration work and budgetary prioritization.
Main floor windows had the sash removed and restored at WEI’s mill shop, and the frames were restored by field craftsmen. The cloudy acrylic panels were removed from the sash and either disposed or used as temporary protection for the eyebrow and dormer openings while the sashes were removed. Larger acrylic panels were inserted into wood frames and used as protection at the first floor (Photo #4, 5 and 6). The existing glazing putty and the glass were removed and set aside.
Sash and frames were stripped of paint and repaired with epoxy or Dutchmen. The glass was reinstalled after the repairs had cured, and then both the frames and sash were primed and painted. There was no missing stained glass, and any cracks were stabilized and sealed with Hxtal. New 1⁄4-inch acrylic was installed as storm panels on the archtop windows to restore a more luminous transparency, and all sashes were reinstalled (Photos #7 and #8).
Mezzanine and dormer levels restoration work included replacement of water damaged sills and hardware. Adjustments were made to the flashing at the eyebrows and dormers to make each weather tight (Photos #9, 10 and 11).
One interesting feature of this work to date is its all-female leadership. From left to right in the Photo #12 below are: Cailin McGough, Cap Ex Advisory Group, the owner’s representative or contractor project manager; Rev. Deborah Scott the church pastor in charge of contract negotiation; Katherine Good, Waldon Studio Architects, architectural project manager; and Amy Hollis from Worcester-Eisenbrandt, Inc., contractor project manager.
Lovely Lane United Methodist Church leaders believe continued fundraising success will permit the final restoration of the remaining archtop stained-glass windows on the Chapel’s main floor and South Tower. Completion of this work will provide additional transparency so that increased daylight will illuminate the building’s interiors as the windows were so designed to do when the building was dedicated in 1887. (Photo #13).
To learn more about MHT’s Historic Preservation Capital Grant Program please visit the program website.