The designers and creators of our beautiful and historic sanctuary building intended it to be a place where each person could feel free to connect with God. They built it for us, though they only knew us as a hopeful idea. They built our sacred space to last, and they built it with craftsmanship and care that is nearly forgotten.
First Church has undertaken a large preservation project to restore and preserve the three stained glass rose windows, the decorative terra cotta, and the brickwork. The fixed and stabilized rose windows, terra cotta and brickwork will be able to withstand future construction projects in the new downtown Long Beach plan. The stewardship of this beautiful, iconic building preserves our legacy as a place of worship and service and assures our ongoing passionate pursuit of social justice and the arts.
The stained glass windows were designed and created by Joseph Evan McKay in 1914. Currently they suffer from softened lead, ineffective caulking, cracks, chips, and in some places BB gun holes.
The panes are being carefully removed from the frame and transported to J. Michael Design’s studio where conservators will repaint areas of loss, re-fire pigments, replace broken and cracked glass, apply new leading and restore the wooden functional stops. The wood and plaster interior frames will be cleaned and restored onsite. Once completed the refreshed glass panes will return from the studio to be re-caulked into position.
The terracotta elements on the east and north facades are cracked and chipped. Some of the hollow terracotta blocks that line Cedar and Third Streets can no longer carry the load of the arches above. Many of the bricks have chipped or spalled–the brick face is gone, exposing soft internal material. The mortar has deteriorated in many places.
The terra cotta cracks will be filled and missing elements will be remade and restored. Repairs will be be cohesive with the original materials and will better withstand the elements. Several blocks will be removed and replaced with an alternative to match the original material providing more support for the terra cotta details above. Compromised bricks will be chipped out and replaced; salvageable bricks will be repaired in place. Old mortar will be scraped out and re-pointed or, where the mortar retains some structural integrity, a consolidant will be used to reinforce it.