The most prized stained glass window has already been installed to adorn the new addition. Cost of the restoration of the windows was personally paid for by library board President Jim Elson.
The windows were originally commissioned for the old city library at 210 E. Chestnut St., which began being built in 1894 and was completed in 1896. The building later served as Canton City Hall from 1959 through 2002. The library moved to its current location at 205 W. Chestnut St. in 1958.
Elson formerly served as city attorney of Canton. He spent considerable time in the city attorney's office and other parts of the old city building. His gaze often fell upon those old stained glass windows during the time he spent there.
He notes the windows had been deteriorating. They had been exposed to the elements for decades. Some had started bowing out. Rain had entered some of the windows as well.
Elson says he thought about those windows after the new city building was bought. He wanted to preserve them as important artifacts of Canton's heritage. He talked to Mayor Jerry Bohler about moving them and received a welcome answer.
He says Bohler quickly responded, "'Well, those belong in the old library.'"
Elson notes the library had given the old building to the city, and he praises the mayor for assisting the library in transfering the windows back to their original owner. The mayor had arranged for city employees to remove the stained glass windows and replace them with plain glass.
Elson arranged to have the stained glass windows restored at his own expense and moved to the current library to be installed in connection with an ongoing renovation and remodeling project. This way, people will still be able to view the historic stained glass windows. Instead of being hidden in some back office, they will be all together for the first time in a public viewing area in the library, Elson says.
"The mayor and library board were united in our commitment to preserve these windows for the citizens of Canton. We can't wait until the library reopens so everyone will be able to see them all together," Elson notes in a prepared statement.
"These windows are a part of Canton's history, and it's appropriate that they continue to delight and inspire future generations in our library," he adds. "I thought that paying for their restoration was one of the best ways I could contribute to the wonderful expansion and renovation we are completing here."
The stained glass windows cost more than $4,000 to restore. One features a painting of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose likeness is ringed by glass jewels. This window stands above an archway leading into the new adult reading room. Three slots for other windows to be installed are on a wall to the left of the Longfellow window. Three other slots are around the corner to the immediate right.
Elson praises local architectural firm Phillips and Associates for the layout. The Longfellow window provides a focal point for visitors browsing the library, drawing them like a beacon to the north end of the building where all the windows reside. "The presentation is just superb," Elson says.
He adds the renovation project also provides architectural continuity. Architect Bill Phillips' father was involved in an earlier building project at the current library, notes Elson.
He notes the stained glass windows are still in their original wood frames. The items are superior examples of their time, he says. The antique crackle glass and red and gold jeweled glass, or jeweled beads, on some of the panes were probably imported from Germany, he adds. He suggests more information could be obtained from the restorer, Stained Glass of Peoria.
Jerry McGowan, an artisan who works at Stained Glass of Peoria, says the project of restoring the stained glass windows of Parlin Library was a little challenging due to their age and deteriorating condition. But he and other artisans at the Peoria business were able to find some colored glass that matched up well. They were able to replace certain pieces needed in an apparently seamless way.
"We were proud of the job," he says.
"These are really nice windows," McGowan says. Noting their historic value, he adds, "It's really neat for Canton to reuse them. It's a real plus for the community to have them. Architectural things like these are often sold to individuals and end up in other cities where people can't see them."
He explains there is no lead in the stained glass; lead is the material that holds the glass together. Bits of colored glass are put together by artisans to form windows. Metals are used to make color in glass. Cobalt makes a blue color, for example. Selenium, a derivative of gold, makes gold, red and pink colors, he says.
McGowan says the best way to estimate the age of a stained glass window is by the year the building was constructed in which it appeared. Informed the library was built in the 1890s, he responds about the windows, "They appear to me to have that kind of age too."
He estimates the glass was made about 120 years ago by the oldest manufacturer of art glass in the United States -- the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company of Kokomo, Ind. "They have records of selling Lewis Company Tiffany Glass. That goes way back," McGowan notes.