HENNIKER — The stained-glass windows around the perimeter of the Tucker Free Library have been fighting gravity for more than a century, but with the help of a $10,000 grant, the windows are now getting a face-lift.On Wednesday, Tom Gloudemans, a window restoration expert from Hancock, began removing the green, purple and orange stained-glass panels that were installed in the library when it was built 110 years ago.
"There are two types of damage that we're seeing," said LynnPiotrowicz, library director. "In some cases, the lead is separating from the glass, but some of the windows also have hairline fractures in the glass from the weight of the building bearing down on them."
Some of the panels showed other telltale signs of distress, including bulging and deterioration of the glazing, said Gloudemans.
Piotrowicz said that she and the library's board of trustees knew the windows needed to be repaired, but the money just wasn't in the budget for such a costly project. But on Nov. 6, they learned that the library had received final approval for a $10,000 grant from the sale and registrations of New Hampshire's Moose Plates, special license plates that help fund projects around the state.
Administered through the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, the grant will allow the library to fix some, but not all of the windows.
Before choosing which windows to work on, Gloudemans, who owns Morphos Studios in Hancock, assessed each panel to determine which were the worse for wear. Then on Wednesday, he began removing the panels to take to his studio. Once there, he will remove all the glazing between the frames and the panels, disassemble the windows while carefully numbering each piece so the puzzle goes back together neatly, and will clean the glass by soaking it for several days in mild detergent. The frames are stripped of their old paint as well.
In addition to numbering each piece of glass, Gloudemans also does a detailed tracing of each frame in order to get everything just right upon reassembly. Once the glass is clean, the windows will be reassembled with new lead, new glazing and freshly painted frames.
In cases where the glass has suffered fractures, Gloudemans will have to replace pieces — a difficult task considering the amount of time that has elapsed since the windows were first made.
"It's difficult to find glass that matches the old glass exactly," he said. "You just have to do the best you can."
Piotrowicz said she isn't certain how many of the library's 16 stained-glass windows will receive attention this year. The grant, though generous, will not fund the restoration of all of them, she said.
"We're going to have to apply for the grant again next year to finish the project," she said. "We wouldn't have been able to do this without the grant."
Gloudemans said the restoration of the first set of windows will take anywhere from a few weeks to a little over a month due in part to the time required for soaking the glass and allowing the glazing to cure.