POTSDAM — Even the windows of the Potsdam Public Museum are historic, and they require some attention.
That is the basis of the grant application submitted to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Historic Preservation Program July 25 by Fred Hanss, Potsdam’s planning and development director.
If granted, the village will receive $176,121 to renovate the about 100-year-old lancet windows in the Potsdam Museum which come from the days when the building was originally used as a church in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Originally built as the First Universalist Church in the early 1800s, the wooden structure was torn down after the Civil War and was rebuilt in stone in 1876, Mimi Van Deusen, museum curator, director and Potsdam village and town historian, said.
“At the time, we’re not sure which windows were in. We have a picture of the church from maybe around the late 1800s and it appears that these lancet windows were colored glass,” Ms. Van Deusen said. “So after those windows came out these windows came in, so I’m not sure, they may be 100 years old, they may have been replaced at some point, we really haven’t pinpointed the actual age of them or when they were installed.”
But with the years gone by, Ms. Van Deusen said she wanted to replace some of the aging interior ultraviolet shades and clean the sills and glass, only to discover they were in a state of disarray.
Because of the uncertainty of the age of the paint, installation and other materials, there is a chance a lead-based paint was used and that there could be asbestos in the materials, Ms. Van Deusen said.
“And the testing was pretty expensive and they said you really can’t do much of anything except tent these windows individually ... And seal it inside so that when they take it out, all the dust would stay enclosed, so it’s kind of a hazmat kind of a thing,” she said. “I just really wanted to clean the windows. And it kind of snowballed. So we’ve been working with Fred and piecing all the information together that he needs to put it together.”
If the grant is awarded to the village, Mr. Hanss said it would renovate 10 of the 11 lancet-style windows in the museum and would be matched with $58,707 in cash from the other budgetary purposes budget line. The village is able to apply for these funds because the Civic Center has been on the National Register of Historic Places.
“There’s a good possibility that there’s asbestos or PCBs in the glazing compounds that was used,” Mr. Hanss said. “So to protect the public, we may end up having some testing done and if we come up with some of those hazardous materials, those would have to be remediated before we could begin to do the window repair, and then there is the window repair itself, which is painstaking work because of the historical nature of it and can you imagine taking out sashes the size of those windows and trying to work on those? It will be very difficult to do. So it’s going to take some effort to bring those back into good condition.”
Mr. Hanss said the village should hear back by early December whether the village will get the grant and would be looking at getting the project up and running during the 2020 building season.
As for the 11th window, a stained glass window depicting Jesus Christ holding a lamb, that will not be repaired in this round of grant funding.
Ms. Van Deusen has a special plan for it.
“I want to apply for another grant to put a new storm window on the outside to protect it,” she said. “If you go outside and you look at the front of the building, you wouldn’t know there was a stained glass window there because it is so fogged on the outside.”
Ms. Van Deusen reached out to Brennan Stained Glass Studio, Syracuse, for an estimate for the work, which she said would cost $13,875.
They would remove the fogged coverings then they would remove the original wood sashes and they would remove all old glass and restore the wood sash, put safety glass into the wood sash, paint the exterior and redo it.
The window was created by master craftsman Harry Horwood, an English artist who settled in Ogdensburg in 1881 and whose work can be seen in the Smithsonian, Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, the Vanderbuilt Mansion in New York City, the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec and, at one time, the Ogdensburg Opera House.
Mr. Horwood and his son, Harry J., spent a total of 56 years in Ogdensburg, making windows for the north country and its churches.
“It would be prettier on the inside,” Ms. Van Deusen said. “The fun thing that I always wanted to do is, especially at Christmas time, or all year round, is have a floodlight on it, because it is gorgeous.”