An overflow crowd of worshipers streamed into Old St. Paul's Church yesterday to rededicate its interior after a $500,000 restoration -- and reaffirm their commitment to preserve the Baltimore landmark.
Construction workers stood next to longtime parishioners during a Thanksgiving service held to celebrate completion of the work -- most notably, restoration of the chancel's huge stained-glass East Window, which had begun to buckle.
"This morning we are giving thanks for all those who contributed their time and talents and deeds to the restoration of this beautiful church," said the Rev. R. Douglas Pitt, senior minister. "We have been looking forward to this day for almost two years."
Visitors were invited to come to the chancel after the service for a closer look at the window and surrounding mural, which was restored while scaffolding was in place. Other work included reinforcing the chancel floor, regilding an arched ceiling above the chancel and replastering the ceiling of the outdoor loggia.
"I think they've done a magnificent job," said church member Richard E. Gatchell. "They're brought it back to all its grandeur. The window picks up all the color from the morning sun when it shines through."
Designed by Richard Upjohn, the church at Charles and Saratoga streets dates from 1856. Its East Window -- designed and fabricated by the Maitland Armstrong Studio, a top glassmaker of the era -- was installed in 1902.
Michael Trostel, restoration architect for the project, marveled at the work done by the stained-glass conservators at Cummings Studios in North Adams, Mass., where the window had been sent in March.
"When you see it in its sad condition and it suddenly emerges, it's worth all the effort," he said.
One of the happiest visitors was Lucinda Kinsolving Leigh, a daughter of former St. Paul's rector Arthur Kinsolving. The restoration of the altar rail was dedicated to the memory of her father, who served from 1906 to 1941. "I think it's superb," she said of the restoration.
The need for the project became apparent on April 27, 1993, when a chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling above the chancel into the choir stall below. That led the vestry to hire consultants to find the cause of the falling plaster and make corrections.
Others involved in the effort were Tidewater Restoration Inc., general contractor; Jerome Lamprecht, structural engineer; John Canning and Co. Ltd., decorative paint and gold leaf conservator; and Adajian and Nelson, furniture conservators.
More than 500 donors have contributed nearly $700,000 toward the "Making Old St. Paul's New Again" campaign, slightly short of its $750,000 goal.