Originally created 08/26/98

Restoration brightens church

Robin Schweitzer remembers looking into Sara Thompson's face and telling her it would take about $300,000 to restore the stained-glass windows of her beloved Union Baptist Church.

Ms. Thompson's eyes filled with tears as she explained the tiny congregation -- which now has about 45 members -- could never raise that kind of money, Mrs. Schweitzer said.

Mrs. Schweitzer decided then that her company, Schweitzer Stained Glass Studio, would somehow, someday repair those windows at no cost to the church.

"I made up my mind because of her when I saw the tears in her eyes," Mrs. Schweitzer said.

On Tuesday, workers began replacing the first restored window.

Union Baptist Church, at the corner of 11th and Greene streets, was built as a mission church by First Presbyterian Church in 1851.

A cornerstone dated 1879 marks the establishment of the Union Baptist congregation.

The gray-and-red building is in the Carpenter Gothic style, an American interpretation of Gothic form, according to information from Historic Augusta, and it has 38 stained-glass windows, each with no fewer than three sections, said Ms. Schweitzer.

"They are exquisite," she said. "They are all hand-painted."

There is only one story window, a Tiffany-style window that depicts angels announcing the birth of Jesus Christ.

Mrs. Schweitzer said she thinks that window was made in Germany although she cannot find a signature to confirm it. The rest are stenciled designs.

Mrs. Schweitzer said exposure to the elements and vandalism caused the deterioration of the windows. Pieces of glass have fallen out of several of the windows, and a few were completely gone.

The window replaced Tuesday would not have weathered another fierce storm, she said.

To ensure their safety, a quarter-inch-thick piece of clear plate glass will be placed over the exterior of each after it is replaced. It will be several years before all are complete.

While the remaining windows have been stabilized, the church is in major need of a repaired roof, said Mrs. Schweitzer.

Water damage from the leaking roof is evident throughout the sanctuary and without renovations, all Mrs. Schweitzer's work will have been in vain.

While Southern Roofing has agreed to repair the roof at a reduced cost, it's still going to take around $40,000 just to repair it.

Columbia Augusta Medical Hospital's Senior Friends has raised about $5,000 to help pay for the roof.

Any donations to the church's restoration project should be earmarked as such.

Mrs. Schweitzer said the church has a separate account specifically for restoration projects. Send contributions to Union Baptist Church, 1104 Greene St., Augusta, GA 30901.


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