Reinvigorated foundation seeks to spruce up Port Royal's Union Church

emoody@beaufortgazette.comAugust 7, 2012 

The wavy windows of Port Royal's Union Church have been distorted by time and elements, their glass flowing downward like wax from a lit candle.

As weather and accidents claimed the original panes, they have been replaced with modern glass. The difference between old and new is stark when looking out the windows of the 134-year-old building.

So the Historic Port Royal Foundation is working with the town, which owns the building, on a $20,000 window-replacement project, according to foundation president Phil Alling. The plan is to replace the newer panes with restoration glass, which mimics the appearance of the original.

"Someone might think why would you want wavy glass if you can have smooth?" Alling said. "Well, because that's what you get when it's old."

The restoration glass is more expensive and will cost about $1,000 per window, he said. The building has 14 windows, each with 15 panes, and only about a quarter to a third of the glass is original.

The foundation also hopes to replace the back door and paint the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Alling said foundation members do not want to compromise on the touch-ups.

"We're just going to have to knuckle down and raise some money," he said.

That's why the foundation is not only seeking donations but also people to "adopt a window," with contributions ranging from $100 per pane to $1,000 per window. Commemorative plaques will honor donors.

Beaufort native Beekman Webb, known for his historic restoration work, will not only replace the glass but also repair broken frames and window weights and ropes that were cut over the years, Alling said.

Church and museum docent Leila Stevens knows the stories behind many of the broken frames, like the set of window panes at the front of the church that was knocked out during an overcrowded wedding. Ropes to many of the weights were cut so the heavy windows could not be propped open.

The church is used for meetings, lectures, weddings and for worship by the St. Mark's Chapel, an Episcopal group, which Alling said has volunteered to adopt a window.

Fundraising was put on a back burner while the foundation regained non-profit status, which it lost last year because it failed to file necessary paperwork. Nonetheless, Alling said, donations have been collected to pay for several windows. The glass has been shipped and Alling expects work will begin shortly.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnPortRoyal.

Related content:

Port Royal church added to National Register of Historic Places, Dec. 12, 2012

Preserving Port Royal's past: Church doubles as town museum, Feb. 4, 2008

Historic Port Royal Foundation

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