Article by Mark Potts for the Lawrence Preservation Alliance; photos by August Rudisell for The Lawrence Times:
The splendor of stained glass is returning to St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church this week.
After more than a year of restoration work, Hoefer Custom Stained Glass of Hutchinson is reinstalling the large stained-glass windows on the north and west sides of the historic structure on the corner of Ninth and New York streets.
The restoration was made possible in part by a fundraising drive by Lawrence Preservation Alliance that raised more than $43,000 in membership dues and donations to pay for the work on the church, which also included restoring its brick walls and other details. The effort was spearheaded by a $10,000 challenge grant by Jeff and Mary Weinberg and was combined with a $90,000 Kansas Heritage Trust Fund grant and a $87,750 in grants from the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council to repair years of deterioration of the building.
In addition, a recently announced $25,000 no-interest loan from LPA and $15,000 in donations from the Weinbergs and the Shelley Miller Trust will cover the cost of completing restoration work on the building’s two west towers. That work is now underway.
The restored stained-glass windows, which are nearly 20 feet tall and more than a century old, are being installed this week by Hoefer. The project was overseen by Hernly and Associates, the architecture firm that wrote the grant applications for the building’s restoration.
St. Luke AME was built in 1910 and has been in continuous use by a predominantly Black congregation since. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Kansas and Lawrence historic registers. St. Luke AME has long been associated with the struggle for racial equality in Lawrence and is one of the few remaining Lawrence buildings with documented ties to the celebrated writer Langston Hughes. Since 1991, when the possibility of historic listing for the structure was first discussed, LPA has been supportive of St. Luke AME as a cultural site that needs to be preserved.
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Since 1995, Verdell Taylor has been the pastor at St. Luke AME Church, an East Lawrence entity with a deep history intertwined with the civil rights movement. After his recent retirement, he is “turning the page for the next chapter.”