AMORY – The Windows Center for the Arts restoration project is blessed with the benefit of an expert craftsman in historic restoration overseeing its current component.
“The project architect recommended the services of the Lathan Company of Mobile, Alabama who are historic restoration specialists,” said Steve Stockton, one of the members of the nonprofit group restoring the historic church building.
The Lathan Company sent John Kelly, its historic restoration and specialty roofing expert, to oversee the restoration of the massive stained glass windows for which the property is named.
“It’s a nice building, no doubt about it,” he said.
Kelly is a native Irishman who speaks with a distinctive Irish brogue. He’s a third-generation craftsman in building restoration, having worked the trade since he was 16 years old. He’s 67 now and has been mentoring his assistant, Jeremias Cardona, for nearly four years to continue his specialty after Kelly retires back home to Ireland someday.
“They call me the last of the old dinosaurs,” Kelly said.
Stockton heartily endorsed Kelly’s expertise.
“His attention to detail is unbelievable. He’s an old-world craftsman,” he said.
The frames for the windows are being reconstructed with mahogany wood Kelly had delivered from Vicksburg. The glass was first taken out of the frames and stored in the building during the restoration work on the frames.
Custom-radiused pieces are assembled on site to work with salvageable existing jambs, heads and sashes for the colossal semicircular transoms that provide the building its namesake character. All the materials used for the project must first be approved by the architect.
“We’re using a Borocure treatment to extend the life of the window frames,” Kelly said.
The thermo treatment significantly improves various characteristics of wood and protects it by using heat and steam without any chemical additives.
“Building components must have maintenance at least every five years,” Kelly said, pointing to mildew stains on the concrete sills below the window openings.
Even specialty work follows the standard process of glazing, priming and top coating to finish the work.
“I believe in two coats of paint. We just can’t do the topcoat now because it’s raining so much,” Kelly said.
He projects the work on the windows he is overseeing to take a total of approximately six weeks.
“Anything that’s complicated, I like. You have to give it your best efforts. It needs to be done right,” he said.