Hanston Baptist Church Completes Window Project

Hanston First Baptist Church
Special to the Globe
The newly restored east side of the Hanston First Baptist Church on Jan. 17.

HANSTON — The First Baptist Church of Hanston recently completed a window restoration project on the east side of its original 1917 church building.

The initiative, which grew out of a church trustee meeting on Jan. 22, 2020, began when the group met to discuss the future of the deteriorating original structure, which had been converted into a Fellowship Hall, kitchen and pastor’s study back in the 1960s.

Another concern of the group was the outward appearance of the old structure. With all of the church’s beautiful patterned-glass lancet windows bricked over—or replaced with smaller regular rectangular-shaped windows—because of deterioration and/or energy savings, the old part of the church looked a bit forlorn.

“The bricking up of the church’s original windows began in the early 1960s when the church added a new, larger sanctuary on the west side,” church trustee, Lance Ziesch, said. “And the remaining windows—including those on the east side—were finally removed in the 1980s.

So, not only did the building look uninviting from the outside with its windows bricked over, it also had lots of cracks developing in its exterior brickwork, he said.

“We were concerned that the structure was becoming unsafe,” he said. “So, we voted to have a structural engineer assess the situation. After he took a look at the building on Feb. 6, he determined that it was sound and just needed to have the cracks repaired.”

The engineer also discovered that one of the original lancet windows remained intact in the east wall of the church’s old bell tower. Apparently, instead of being completely removed like the other windows, it had simply been bricked over on the outside and covered with plywood up to the false ceiling on the inside, he said.

So, the church decided to move forward with the restoration on July 2, 2020, when Larry Cecil, of Dodge City, began repairing the cracks in the brickwork.

One of the things the church members pointed out to Cecil beforehand was that one of the bricked-over window insets on the northeast corner of the church was starting to fall out. After inspecting the covered window, Cecil determined that the only way he could fix it would be to take out the bricks and then put them back in again.

“As soon as he said that, it was determined that if the bricks needed to be taken out, they definitely wouldn’t be going back in. We had been having an ongoing discussion for several years about how some of those windows might be uncovered,” he said.

The group decided to have Cecil remove the bricks from the northeast corner window and also the southeast corner window, to give the east side of the church some symmetry. And because the bell tower window was still intact, they also chose to have that window unbricked.

After Cecil finished repointing the brickwork and uncovering the three windows, Kurt Lonnberg, of Jetmore, came and temporarily sealed over the exposed window holes, Ziesch said.

Then on July 25, 2020, Ziesch, along with Andrew Scott, of Hanston, set about removing the false ceiling that had been installed in the bell tower back in the 1970s, when the room had been converted into a closet.

After removing the ceiling, the top two thirds of the lancet window was exposed on the inside.

Church member, Debbie Ruff, who has been leading the restoration project, said, “It was good to see what was behind the plywood and ceiling tiles!”

She said that church had feared there might be irreparable water damage in the room, but it turned out to be minimal. Although, a bit of termite damage was evident.

After the bell tower false ceiling was removed, it was finally time to begin installing the new windows, Ziesch said.

“Kurt Lonnberg and Scott McKibben [of Jetmore] began installing the new windows on Jan. 4,” he said. “The first was the one in the bell tower. Because the bottom portion of the window frame was not salvageable, the church decided to only leave the original lancet window eyebrow, and then replace the rectangular portion of the window below it with a new energy-efficient vinyl window that mimicked the original.”

Because three additional original window eyebrows had been discovered several years ago in storage at Todd and Candace Ruff’s house in Hanston, the church was able to have two of those restored and reinstalled to match the remaining one in the bell tower. The other eyebrow was refurbished in Wichita with a stained-glass design and is now displayed in the sanctuary.

“The southeast window was installed next on Jan. 6, and the northeast window followed on Jan. 7,” Ziesch said. “Kurt and Scott did a fantastic job of combining the original eyebrows with the new modern rectangular vinyl windows. As one of the church members told me, ‘It’s as if the old church has opened up its eyes. It has new life!’”

Ruff said that members of the community also have been enthusiastic about the return of the church’s windows, especially the kids who attend Good News Club on Wednesday afternoons in the Fellowship Hall.

“The first day we had Good News after the windows had been reinstalled, the kids came in and just stared,” Ruff said. “One of them said, ‘Oh, I like this!’”

Although not all of the bricked-over windows have been uncovered at this time, the church congregation is more than thrilled with the three that they now have, Ruff said.

“I wish we could do all of the windows, but I’m thankful we are doing three,” Ruff said. “We’re also going to restore the bell tower interior—with hopes of one day rebuilding a nonfunctional tower similar to the original. But that won’t happen for a while.”

Cutlines: The newly restored east side of the Hanston First Baptist Church on Jan. 17. [Photo by Lance Ziesch]