Since 2005 Cripple Creek has spent almost $137,000 on restoring St. Peter's Catholic Church to its 1897 splendor. The money comes from the city's Historic Preservation budget, which is funded by gaming taxes.
The spending includes the final step in the restoration process, repairing and restoring or replacing the last 12 stained glass windows on the front of the church. Ron Rayer, owner of Rayer Works in Art Glass in Woodland Park, won the bid against several other companies, one of which was based in Chicago.
“It's nice to keep the money in the community,” he said.
Even though this is the last phase, there's still a lot of work to do on the project.
“There are some blown out arches and others are just plain glass,” he said. “We'll match them as best we can to the windows in the sanctuary. We'll restore the windows around the front door and we'll replace the rose window. It was installed probably in the 1970s and the colors and design don't really match anything in here. We have photos of the original window from the early 1900s so we'll design something close to the original.”
Rayer started working with his brother restoring stained glass windows in churches when he was 13 years old. His family is originally from Colorado. He graduated from Manitou Springs High School. His brother owns a stained glass business in Wichita, Kan., where he worked for 17 years but he now lives and works in Woodland Park.
“I still go back to Kansas to help my brother when he gets too busy,” he said. “He works all over Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.”
Rayer usually takes on three or four churches each year but much of the company's work is in custom stained glass for residential properties.
He and his crew, which includes his son Josh, were in Cripple Creek on March 28 removing the rose window and tracing patterns from the glass on the already restored windows.
“These are some of the most beautiful windows I've ever worked with,” he said. “This glass is more than 100 years old; you can't buy it anymore. Some of it probably came from the Kokomo Stained Glass Co. in Kokomo, Ind., They've been around for 120 years or so and we'll probably buy a lot of the glass we'll need from them. It won't be the same but it will be close.”
He explained that the original windows were probably ordered while the church was being built after the two 1896 fires destroyed most of the town.
“They would have come with wide borders that could be cut back to fit the opening,” he said, pointing out the thin green borders on the sanctuary windows. “Those borders might have started out five inches wide and someone who knew how to cut glass probably trimmed them before the windows were installed.”
Rayer has already spent about a month on the designs. Once the new or restored windows are installed they will have new glazing added to the outside for protection from the elements.
“They've used Plexiglas to protect the old windows,” he said. “Plexi warps and gets cloudy or discolors. Plate glass will look much better.”
Rayer is hoping to finish the work by in June or July. For more information about this project or to order custom work, Rayer can be reached at 719-660-3991.