Our church was one of the first historic buildings to seismically retrofit using the CenterCore system. Using this method, holes filled with grout and rebar were drilled from the bare rooftop. Water relief holes were drilled in the sides of the building to allow moisture to escape and make sure grout was packed all the way to the bottom. Jim Woods did the congregation a great service by photographing the 1980’s retrofit. His photos of the building, the work that was done to it, and what was hidden behind the walls have been instrumental in helping us understand the structural implications of the retrofit. Here are a few gems from his archive donation.
Many of you who were at Christmas service may be wondering why there is scaffolding under the east window again. The answer is because of further investigations by the preservation team. Several architectural conservators will be examining the interior window to learn how it was put together. Their investigation is timed to preface the boom lift that was mentioned a few posts ago.
Through the course of our discussions it has become apparent that the north and east facades must be treated simultaneously. There are only four terra cotta manufacturers in the world. There is a lag between when the order is placed and the replacements are made and shipped. Ordering all of the replacement parts at once reduces the cost of shipping and the time to get the terra cotta pieces. To figure out how many total parts are going to be needed both facades must be examined.
The north side may also be built differently than the east. The north cornice collapsed in the 1933 earthquake. It was rebuilt without the decorative brickwork that the east side has. This indicates that the church was not opposed to making significant changes to meet their budget. Further study should expose their alterations and help us address those problems specifically.
To reach the north window a boom lift must be placed in the bike lane on 3rd St., which needs approval from the city. A permit requires proof of licenses, insurance, city approval of the insurance, a city endorsement, and other logistical information. It takes quite a bit of time to gather all of the materials and for the city to process the information. The investigation days have had to be rescheduled twice because of difficulties with the paperwork. Hopefully the boom lift will be coming soon, and all of the internal metal will be revealed. We will keep you posted!
To properly analyze the building our experts need to know the exact length, width, and height of the entire façade in a computer aided design software called AutoCAD. AutoCAD first developed in 1982 to help architects, engineers, and manufacturers make their creations into digital renderings. Since then, it has become the standard for making dimensioned drawings on the computer. The digitizing process was first started at First Church last spring when I took a course on AutoCAD with architect Ted Lambros at Long Beach City College.
With help from the archive team, a portion of the class made copies of the original 1914 drawings of the First Congregational Church. The group then used those drawings as the blueprints for their final project. For bonus points, a few dedicated students met up with Ted at First Congregational to learn how to accurately dimension a building using a measuring tape and laser-measuring device.
When our experts expressed a need for dimensioned drawings I was thrilled that these drawings could be used; however, drawings on paper are always different than what was actually built. I discovered this fact when I went around the lower façade with a measuring tape to double check the work that the students did. Unfortunately, the discrepancies were too significant to ignore so the process would have to be redone.
To properly measure the building to accurately redraw the building I recruited Sam, the building property manager. One of his past lives was as a mover so his skills with a tape measure far exceed expectations. Here are several photos of the daring feats we accomplished with the tape measure.
I will post the finished drawing soon once it is completed!
This past week several lucky members of the First Church team received a behind the scenes look at where and how the rose window is being restored. Last Wednesday, Yvonne, Sam, Elena, and I drove up to the valley meet Mike Oades at his studio in Chatsworth. He greeted us in a room with a large central table covered in tracings of window designs.
These drawings, he explained, are used to help identify how the windows differ from one another. Despite being planned off of the same template, the stained glass windows are made by hand and set into wood frames that warped uniquely depending on their placement. The results are usually no more than 1/8-1/4” which might not seem like a lot but any tiny gap allows entrance to damaging elements such as rain and other pollutants.
In addition, our windows were not made according to ‘spec.’ Stained glass windows should have an exterior leading that acts as a frame to hold all of the pieces together. In our case there is little to no exterior leading and the unprotected glass sat between the wood and terracotta. Mike is adding the exterior leading so that in the future the panes will be better protected but the 3/8” displacement from the new leading has to be taken into account to re-center the designs for re-installation.
Once the design is outlined, the panels are moved to the other portion of his studio where all of the ‘dirty’ work happens. The windows are first left to soak in a water bath for 24-48 hours. This allows most of the grime to wash off and helps soften the leading. After this process is complete the windows are removed from their baths and the leading is removed by hand to separate the pieces. The leading in our windows is so soft from age that even without soaking it can be peeled up in most places with a pinkie finger.
The broken panes are saved and used to make patterns for new replacement pieces. Unlike many other types of artistic media, glass manufacturing has not changed much in the past 120 years so the same exact colors are still available. What has changed is our ability to manipulate and maintain exact temperatures which effects how well the stains adhere to the glass.
The cleaned non-broken pieces are first re-fired to make sure that any original stain that was not properly fired originally will be well adhered before restoration. The colors then get freshened up with new paint and re-fired. I expected huge kilns but instead found two Easy-Bake Oven look a likes, which makes sense because the pieces are re-fired while separated, not put together.
After the glass is repainted and fired several times, the pieces are laid out together like a jigsaw puzzle to be re-leaded. I was hoping the leading would come out of a machine like squeezy cheese (his assistant jumped in laughing, ‘I wish!’) but not such luck. Mike cuts the leading, bends it by hand to fit the curve of the glass shapes, and solders it back together.
Here is a finished teardrop that will be on view as a contrast soon!
This week I am beginning work on the wooden frames that operate as functional stops that hold the stained glass panes in place (see second post for pictures of stops in place). The stops were removed along with the stained glass windowpanes back in August. They have been stabilized with epoxy and are now ready for fine detail work. Before that can happen, all of the stops must be photographed and notes on their condition must be taken so that future generations will know what was done to them. Here are a few shots of my documentation process.
Also, the church will be renting a boom lift to complete an investigation of the terracotta to locate buried metal. The metal anchors that hold the blocks together have corroded and are potentially the cause of many of the cracks. By mapping the metal and surrounding cracks we can determine the validity of a causal relationship and begin to find ways to address the problems. I have included two images from the National Terracotta Society’s 1914 manual that illustrate the types of metal we are hoping to find.
For several months scaffolding was erected in sanctuary to allow for access for investigations of the rose window. It was determined to be no longer necessary and Mike Oades and his team were able to take down the scaffolding. . The timing was fortuitous because every seat in the sanctuary was needed for last Thursday’s Momastery event.
Momastery aka Glennon Doyle Melton packed the sanctuary full of women who came together for an evening to share their stories and their struggles. After an hour meet and greet Glennon spoke about her story, the origins of her new book, and her relationship with the United Church of Christ. She explained the draw to her UCC community as ‘finally finding a place where love and the church reached out to everyone.’
Glennon Doyle Melton is one of many illustrious authors and speakers that First Church has hosted over the years. Past lecturers include Dr. Edward Krehbiel, a Stanford history professor and member of Wilson’s post-war peace settlement working group, in 1918, the scientist who discovered the charge of an electron and Nobel Prize winner Dr. R. A. Millikan in 1923, Russian royalty and UCLA professor Prince Andre Lobanoff Rostovsky in 1933, and many many more.
We look forward to more lectures that bring current subjects to the forefront and make the First Congregational Church a meeting place for not only religious but also intellectually and emotionally challenging discussions.
This week the preservation team put together a new encasement for the Koinonia room. This one features a teardrop window that was removed from the east rose window. In it you can find examples of almost every kind of damage inflicted on the panes: cracking, broken pieces, soft/bent leading, chips, losses, a poorly constructed patch, and several BB gun holes to top it off.
In honor of the windows currently under restoration, here is a bit more information about the creator of our stained glass windows, Joseph Evan Mackay. Many thanks to Bob Kalayjian who spent countless hours putting together such a wonderful trove of information!
Joseph Evan Mackay was a Scottish emigrant born in the 1864 who moved to New York City in 1884. He worked with John LaFarge for three years until he began working at Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. His time at Tiffany was tumultuous. He later sued the company in 1897 for a $17,000 commission he had earned. It is unknown whether or not he was successful in his suit.
By the early 1900’s he had moved to San Francisco where he began to distinguish himself by diverging from traditional European iconography and including Western naturalistic imagery. He left the bay area after a few years and moved down to Los Angeles. In 1905 the Los Angeles Times reported a strike at his warehouse over his hiring of a Japanese glassmaker he knew from his time at Tiffany in New York.
His liberal politics must have endeared him to the relatively young First Congregational Church of Long Beach. He was hired in 1913 to design all of the stained glass and interior spaces. He continued creating art glass in California until his death in 1938. He is buried in Beverly Hills.
 Paint, oil and drug review Vol. 24 No. 1. July 7, 1897 Chicago: D. Van Ness Pub. Co.
 “Wouldn’t work with any Jap.” The Los Angeles Times. August, 13, 1905. [Los Angeles, Calif.]: Times-Mirror Co.
Finally the skylights in the Kononia room are back in place and boy do they look fantastic! Not only was the glass cleaned and sagging in the frame fixed by J. Michael Designs but thanks to Sam Johnson, Yvonne Samarion, and a new volunteer David Eckhous the interiors were repainted and solar powered lights were installed to illuminate the glass at night. Hopefully their efforts combined with the recaulking the Historic Preservation Committee did Spring of 2015 will mean that the skylights will be in stellar condition for the next hundred years.
Here are some during and after photos:
One of the more pressing questions the Historic Preservation Committee has been receiving as of late is about the scaffolding in the Koinonia Room. Aren’t we just dealing with the rose window? The answer is we are dealing with both simultaneously.
The skylights in the Kononia Room have bowed significantly in their frames. Their state of deterioration is such that repair work cannot wait without further risk of endangering the people below if a seismic event were to occur. Their removal also coincided well with the removal of the rose window so both stained glass pieces are being addressed at the same time.
While the glass is removed church staff will also be repainting the interior of the skylights and addressing the rusting on the frames. The process should take a few weeks. Preventive maintenance like this will ensure that the newly cleaned and repaired glass will stay secure in their frames for a long time to come.
Our rose window is comprised of four layers: a terracotta exterior, a mortar and metal interior, the stained glass panes, and the interior wood frame.
All of the windows must be vacuumed before they can be taken out. Dust and debris can obscure underlying damage and hinder the removal process so this seemingly simple step is actually critical to success.
Once the glass is cleaned, a portion of the wood frame called a functional stop must be removed. The functional stop is not the entire frame but rather a thin strip of wood that is nailed to the structural frame to hold the glass in place.
After the functional stop is removed, a curved tool is used to release the glass from the old putty. In most cases there is leading around the outside of the glass but in some cases, the glass sits right up against the frame.
The glass is then taped together with masking tape. This ensures that broken pieces stay together during transport.
As soon as the window is removed, the remnants of the old putty are vacuumed up and the pane is replaced with a cream colored glass. The cream glass is held by a silicone caulk, which is further stabilized by foam functional stops that are nailed into the structural frame.
The glass panes and functional stops will be restored offsite at J. Michael Designs studio. Once the exterior terracotta is repaired the glass will be returned to the sanctuary in approximately six months.