Church’s stained-glass windows receive $1.8M in preservation funds

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The century-old, stained-glass artistry of Edna Browning Ruby displayed in a Lafayette church will receive nearly $2 million in preservation funds, thanks to state, federal and grant money.

Trinity United Methodist Church, where some of the artist’s masterpieces are showcased, was recently selected as one of the 15 projects awarded a Historic Preservation Fund grant. This will allow for the preservation and protection of Trinity’s stained-glass windows.

The grants total over $575,000 in federal funds, allotted by the Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology of the Department of Natural Resources in Indiana, according to Trinity. These funds will be matched by local and private funds for a total of $1.8 million.

“We are hoping to begin work this summer, but the official start date has not yet been scheduled,” Monica McDougal, pastor of young adult outreach and office administrator for Trinity, said. “However, the fundraising campaign – to cover what the grant doesn’t – is ongoing.”

In order to be considered for the grant, Trinity had to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

“Trinity will receive $50,000 in matching funds to rehabilitate the stained glass windows on the South elevation of the church,” the church release said. “The South side includes over 13 of the 36 stained glass windows in the church. The windows exhibit cracks in many glass pieces, deflection of metal camesand supports, and deterioration of cement.

“The exterior protective glazing that was installed in the 1960s has created multiple issues and will be removed and replaced with a new glazing that better displays the intricate window designs and provides better protection. Some windows will be repaired in place, while others will be removed and disassembled to create a new framework.”

The stained glass windows were created by Ruby, a long-time member of the church. In 1915, at the age of 28, Ruby took up the study of stained glass. Her work can also be found in Stidham United Methodist Church and Stidham Memorial Church (Elston Presbyterian Church), both in Lafayette.

When construction of Trinity began in 1868, according to the church’s history of Ruby’s work, the windows were designed to hold stained glass. Ruby, part of Trinity’s youth group, became interested in the study of stained glass.

“Recognizing her remarkable talent,” writes Dr. Steve Ash on the website, “the church asked Edna to design and install the beautiful windows of the church that we see today.​”

The restoration and preservation will address several issues affecting the windows, Ash also writes, including many pieces of glass that are fractured or broken. Some through the years have been replaced with glass of mismatched color.

When she died in 1937, Browning was the only woman in the United States who designed, built, and installed stained glass windows, according to curriculum on ArtSmart: Indiana. Two churches in Indianapolis – West Washington Street Methodist Church and United Brethren Church on Walnut – display her artistry.  

The Tippecanoe County Historical Association lists Browning as one of the “Tippecanoe County Women to Know.”

Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.

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