The Story of the Stained Glass Windows in the CLC Lobby
The Story of the Stained Glass Window Display in the Christian Life Center Lobby
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Warrensburg, Missouri
Written by: Anita Gosney, Church Historian, April 2020
In late 1839 or early 1840, the Christian Church preaching in Warrensburg began under a group of four trees called “Old Four” located near Main Street, in what is known today as “Old Town”.
In 1841 at an annual meeting in Independence, the Christian Church in Warrensburg reported 35 members and in the 1846 meeting reported 96 members. They were meeting in what is known today as the Old Courthouse on Main Street.
The church was growing rapidly, and in 1859 the membership built a large brick building at 416-417 West Gay Street in Old Town; however, during the Civil War the Christian Church in Warrensburg was disbanded, and the brick church building was sold to pay the debt.
Following the Civil War, the church was reorganized and using the money retained by A. H. Gilkerson from the sale of the original brick building, a wood frame building at 218 West Gay Street was built.
This beautiful white frame building with its white fence and green grass lawn surrounded by trees served the First Christian Church congregation for 24 years. As the membership grew in number, their need for more space, larger classrooms, office space, and a desire for a more impressive religious structure also grew.
By the late 1880s a new church building at the northeast corner of Gay and Holden Streets was being built. The new brick building was completed in 1889 and was huge, too large for the size of Warrensburg, in some people’s mind. The new church had a large number of beautiful stained glass windows, a bell tower, and seating for 1,000 people.
First Christian Church in Warrensburg hosted the State Convention in October of 1890, and the Pertle Springs Hotel provided room and board at a special rate of $1.00 per day with transportation from Pertle Springs to the church on the “dummy-train” (the name given to the train from Pertle Springs through downtown Warrensburg on Holden Street) for 10 cents per round trip.
Following the State Convention, a revival was held in late 1891 which added an additional 192 members. A second revival in 1910 added another 125 members bringing the total membership to over 800 members. So the fear that the building was too large for the Warrensburg population was unfounded.
In 1963, a new education wing was added to the north side of the building, and in 2002 the Christian Life Center building was added to the east but was separated from the original building by a courtyard. The education wing effectively covered and was in direct contact with the north side of the original building.
When Lyman Hannah was attempting to secure donations for the restoration of the church’s stained glass windows, he asked the congregation, “How many stained glass windows are there in the church?” The responses were “over 10,” “15,” and “25.” Lyman then said that he had counted over 50 and that almost all of them were needing to be rebuilt.
After the morning service, Noel Dougherty asked Lyman if he counted the 6 windows that were buried in the north wall of the church when the education wing was built. Lyman’s response was, “What are you talking about? Can you show me where they are?” Noel took him up the back stairs to the third floor and pointed them out saying that only the top three or four feet of them could be seen.
It was unbelievable that the windows were just left hanging in the wall when the addition to the building was constructed.
It turned out that what Noel was showing Lyman was only the arched top half of the windows. The bottom half of some of the windows were used as lighted panels in the parlor, north of the sanctuary, and one was in the kitchen area having not been moved from its original location.
A few days later, Lyman was talking to Lee Younce about the windows in the north wall and took him up to the third floor to show him. Lee’s response was, “Wow! Let’s pull them out of there and see what they look like.” They talked about what to do with them, deciding so everyone could enjoy them, they needed to make a display.
They planned to make a vertical box for each window and back light each one with LED lights. The arched tops presented a problem since the boxes were to be rectangular. It was decided that they would make arched panels that would fill the gap between the arch of the window and the box. Lyman would carve the panels with dogwood branches.
Lee agreed they could build the display boxes in his shop, and Lyman agreed to help build them and would do the LED lighting. They both provided the lumber.
Now the problem was to get the windows out of the wall.
The windows were recessed into the wall and could not be lifted straight up out of the wall. Lee and Lyman brought their tools and they cut the window frames in the wall which allowed the windows to be tilted into the room enough to allow the window to be lifted up and out of the wall. The most difficult part was to remove the windows without dropping them.
Since this was only the top half of the original windows and the lower half of each window was missing, there was nothing to support the window except Lee and Lyman while they pulled and lifted the windows out of the wall. If one slipped down into the wall, it would drop several feet into the wall cavity that was only accessible from the top where they were working. There were no problems with the removal, but the windows were a mess. They were covered with mortar and dirt from the construction of the wall for the education building.
With the additional help of Claudeen Hannah and Bob Cochran, the next couple of weeks were spent cleaning, scraping, brushing, and washing the six stained glass windows. Members of the property committee covered the openings in the wall where the windows were removed with plywood.
Once the windows were clean, Lee and Lyman hauled them to Lee’s shop, and the work started on building the boxes to display the windows.
A couple of the windows had some stained glass pieces missing, so they made replacement pieces and installed them. Lee did most of the box construction and applied the finish to the wood. Once the boxes were completed, Lyman installed the LED lights, then backs and feet were added to the boxes.
The completed display boxes were hauled to the church, and it was decided to space them down the south wall in the lobby from the entrance doors to the CLC and to the west wall. Space was left for the photo displays between each of the stained glass display boxes. Larry Elliot created the electrical circuits to power the LED lighting for the display.
This project started in December of 2016 and the people involved with the project donated the materials and their time. The stained glass window display in the CLC lobby was completed March 9, 2017. After completion, Lee and Lyman gave a big smile and a sigh of relief for a job well done!