Rugged Cross Baptist Church
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchInstalling Restored Stained Glass
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchExterior View - Before
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchExterior View - After
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchDamaged Window
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchBefore Restoration
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchAfter Restoration
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchRestored Tracery Awaiting Re-installation
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchDecorative Copper to be Restored at Tower
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchMoses window
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchShingle Installation at Sanctuary Roof
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchNew Plywood Sheathing at Tower
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchDeteriorated Ventillator
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchSanctuary Interior - Before
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchAltar Window with Upper Crucifixion Panel Removed
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchAltar Window Restored
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchRoof - Before
Rugged Cross Baptist ChurchRoof - After
A Six Year Restoration Saga, From Missing to Magnificent
In October 2005, the Conservancy’s Technical Services Hotline received a poignant telephone call from Rev. Emma J. Knox of Rugged Cross Baptist Church, a handsome, 1898, Romanesque Revival Church in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The upper half of their monumental altar window, a Bavarian stained glass window depicting the Crucifixion, was in danger of falling out of the building. The Conservancy provided a referral to the Gil Stained Glass studio, which carefully removed the upper window, and crated it for future restoration and re-installation. Thus began a six year, $700,000 restoration odyssey, with the missing upper half of the Crucifixion window a weekly reminder to the congregation of the project’s urgency and progress.
When Sacred Sites program staff visited the church that November, we found that not only had the altar window fallen out, due to severe rot of the wood tracery frame, but there was a large hole visible in the tower roof, probably due to a lightning strike. The church had to repair the tower roof, or risk losing their insurance coverage. Deterioration of wood window sills had caused monumental stained glass windows at both side aisles to sink, leaving 3” gaps at the top of several windows. The asphalt shingle roof at the main sanctuary was more than 30 years old, and there were active leaks at the rear of the church. But the interior of the church was an intact jewel box – retaining original stenciled finishes, gas light fixtures, marble altar and wainscoting, exquisite bronze altar fittings, and lovely Meyer of Munich stained glass windows.
The church was in the midst of finalizing a contract with Dunn Development Corp. for the construction of a 49-unit affordable housing complex next door to the church, which would provide the church with income towards substantial repairs within the year. In the meantime, however, the church was in urgent need of technical referrals and emergency funding to begin to assess, and address, the deteriorated roofs and windows. Conservancy staff conducted research into this former German Lutheran congregation’s history and architecture, helping the congregation obtain preliminary National Register eligibility, the first step to qualify for Conservancy funding. The Conservancy solicited a conditions assessment and schematic design proposal from preservation architect Kaitsen Woo, which would identify repair scope and costs for the tower and windows, and ensure that the construction of the adjacent building would not exacerbate existing conditions. To fund the assessment, the Conservancy awarded a $7,500 Consulting grant and a $2,500 Endangered Buildings grant, and secured a $5,000 donation towards the assessment from Martin Dunn, the developer of the adjacent apartment building.
In 2007, Conservancy staff joined Mr. Dunn, elected officials and Kathy Howe of the State Historic Preservation Office at a celebration of the listing of the church on the State and National Register of Historic Places. In 2008, Rugged Cross Apartments were completed and occupied, architect Kaitsen Woo completed schematic restoration plans, and the church applied for both a Conservancy Sacred Sites-Robert W. Wilson challenge grant and a New York State EPF grant towards the $700,000 restoration of the roofs and windows. The church was awarded the Conservancy’s largest-ever challenge grant of $70,000, which helped leverage a $250,000 EPF grant in 2009. In 2010, with funding finally in place, the project was split into two contracts: Baschnagel Brothers Roofing Company recreated the missing tile roof at the tower, restored tile roofing at the secondary tower, and installed new shingle roofing at the sanctuary. Rohlf’s Stained and Leaded Glass Studio restored the monumental wood tracery window and stained glass at the altar and side aisles. Rohlf’s also recreated a missing stained glass panel at a figural window depicting Moses, restored deteriorated ventilator panels, replaced deteriorated protective glazing, and repainted exterior wood tracery windows. Restoration began in September 2010, and was completed this month, nearly six years after the congregation first reached out to the Conservancy. It’s been a long road, but the project is a great example of what happens when the Conservancy partners with an enthusiastic and motivated Sacred Site.