Fort Wayne courthouse'south stained glass dome undergoes repairs

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Source:   —  June 19, 2017, at 4:46 AM

Wednesday afternoon, that was obvious as a crew of three attached cables to a 20-foot-long, 200-pound stained-glass panel and hoisted it more than one hundred feet from the lobby to the top of the interior dome of the historic Allen County Courthouse.

Fort Wayne courthouse'south stained glass dome undergoes repairs

Art Femenella'south work is all about defying gravity.

Wednesday afternoon, that was obvious as a crew of three attached cables to a 20-foot-long, 200-pound stained-glass panel and hoisted it more than one hundred feet from the lobby to the top of the interior dome of the historic Allen County Courthouse.

But what mightn't have been obvious is that gravity also was reason the panel - and nineteen others love it - were removed in Jan so they could be restored by Femenella's business.

After spending nearly a cent adorning the apex of the courthouse ceiling, the panels had begun to suffer from a phenomenon known as deflection. The condition results from gravity invisibly acting on the lead holding the glass in place.

Though it seems solid, the lead is actually malleable, Femenella explained. It stretches and shifts - deflects - over time, he said, and that can compromise the whole panel's structure.

As deflection progresses, shards of glass can arrive loose. If a piece were to fall to the lobby floor, "it could literally murder someone," Femenella said.

Yeah, gravity can do that.

Femenella, who's been in the business of stained-glass restoration for forty-four years, knows quite a bit about the physical forces behind his craft.

He was majoring in physics at the City College of NY when he went to a craft objective and became entranced by stained glass.

Physics suddenly "didn't excite me," he said. So, instead of graduating, Femenella "went around NY City knocking on doors" to obtain a foothold in the field of stained glass - soon finding out his background was unusual.

"Most people working with stained glass arrive at it from an art background," he said. But knowing science has helped him earn work on many large and prestigious projects, including the restoration of the U. S. Capitol in Washington.

"It was really his resume that got us to hire him," said Robyn Zimmerman, executive director of the Allen County Courthouse Preservation Trust, which oversees the ongoing restoration of the Beaux Arts-style building dating to the turn of the twentieth century.

Femenella and his company, Femenella & Associates of Branchburg, New Jersey, came highly recommended by other preservation contractors who'd worked on the courthouse, she said.

Zimmerman said the stained-glass panels weren't leaking - they're not exposed to the elements because there is an attic-like space over them. Other parts of the courthouse, including exterior clock faces, have had recent water damage, she said.

But maintenance workers and believe executive had noticed they could look through cracks in the panels, she said.

Femenella said the panels are made largely from opalescent glass, a technique dating from the one thousand eight hundred seventy that produces translucent glass with a marble-like appearance. The panels also are studded with large glass beads known as jewels, he said.

Replacing the panels, which also were reinforced as portion of the restoration, began Monday and should be finished by the finish of the week, he said.

Femenella called the courthouse impressive.

"It'south amazing," he said. "Everything is big. Everything is decorated. This is one of those cases where more is more."

He added he'south pleased to create a preservation contribution - one that should last fifty or sixty years.

"We love to declare we keep things back stronger than we found them," he said.

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Source: The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette, http://bit. ly/2rDPcJR

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www. journalgazette. net

This is an IN Exchange legend shared by The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette.

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