Century-Old Stained Glass Found During Construction Being Restored For New Pittsburgh Playhouse

Aug 10, 2017

In the midst of construction on the new Pittsburgh Playhouse downtown, Point Park University discovered a 114-year-old, hidden stained glass ceiling. But it wasn’t in great shape. A small, South Hills company has been working over the last year, restoring the large, colorful panels.

It was during one of the many renovations of the old Stock Exchange building that a floor and ceiling was built, completely covering the stained glass.

Pictured is one of the panels, which hasn't undergone the restoration process yet. In the lower right-hand corner, rectangular glass pieces are starting to sag from their original positions.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

“These windows were somewhat of a wonderful surprise,” said Elmer Burger, Point Park University’s resident architect. The floor and ceiling will not be rebuilt, so when the glass goes back in, it will be visible to all.

“In the particular place where the stain glass coffers are visible, is a café and then also our costume shop,” said Burger.

There are 22 panels; 16 of them are large – about 5 feet by 6 feet. Some were caving in, had broken pieces and other issues. Family-owned Williams Stained Glass is repairing and restoring all of the panels. Among the challenges is ensuring all measurements and glasses are as true as possible to the original.

“There are a couple of glass manufacturers from that era that are still around, so we used a lot of that and people got us glass too from other restorations, so we can reuse some of that real old glass from other projects, such as churches,” said Keeley Hancox, Williams Stained Glass studio manager and designer. 

The “smaller” pieces are 2-and-a-half feet by 9 feet and one of them had to be completely recreated from scratch. The hope, said Hancox, is that when people see the ceiling in the Playhouse building, they won’t be able to tell which one is the new panel and which ones are old.

The glass restoration is expected to wrap up Sept. 25, and they’ll be reinstalled some time this fall. The Pittsburgh Playhouse is slated to open in 2018 .