Company restoring German Village church’s stained-glass windows

By Gary Seman Jr. / ThisWeek News July 16, 2018

A long-established German Village business is helping a historic church get ready for its grand reopening next year. Franklin Art Glass Studio has been hired to repair all of the stained-glass pieces at Saint Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church.

The studio is charged with 21 major pieces and six minor parts, which are non-stained-glass openings. And the clock is ticking. Franklin Art Glass Studio has until Easter 2019 to complete the work.

“It’s doable,” said Garrett Pilarski, foreman for the company, 222 E. Sycamore St.

Some of the pieces are very large. The company will repair the lead skeletal structures that are used to hold the colored-glass panels in place. The talks started shortly after Saint Mary was struck by lightning in August 2016. The storm caused major damage to the interior structure of church, 684 S. Third St. It has been closed to worshippers since then.

Garrett Pilarski, foreman of the studio, said he lent his expertise to the Rev. Kevin Lutz. The studio eventually received a contract to fix the stained glass. Pilarski declined to disclose a dollar figure for the work.

“I’d say they chose us because we’re in German Village,” said Gary Helf, owner of the studio, which occupies 30,000 square feet of space in two buildings.

Helf said the actual stained-glass windows were not damaged after the lightning strike, but they hadn’t been upgraded for many decades, so it didn’t make sense for the church to reopen with a fresh renovation, only to have to take out the windows for repair.

Franklin Art Glass is also familiar with the stained glass, which was created by VonGerichten Art Glass Co., a local business that was renowned for its craftsmanship, Helf said. In fact, Helf’s great-grandfather, Henry F. Helf, worked for VonGerichten.

“They’re superior windows done by VonGerichten but not unusual for their time,” he said. Franklin Art Glass has a 94-year history in German Village. It moved to its current location in the early 1960s, Helf said.

Lutz called Franklin Art Glass “legendary” and said it has a very good reputation. “I found them to be very reliable, very trustworthy and very prompt,” he said.
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