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The United Presbyterian and Congregational Church has been an Ashland landmark at 214 Vaughn Avenue for 122 years, with its Richardson Romanesque architecture and its 50 beautiful stained glass windows
"Some of the windows were installed in memory of a Sunday school teacher or for the community's founders — there are windows that honor the Vaughns — and I believe that Mrs. Edwin Ellis had a window put in in honor of her husband," the Rev. Jim Deters, pastor of the church, said.
For more than a century, the handmade stained glass has inspired generations of Ashlanders who have worshipped or attended concerts in the stately church.
Now, for the first time since the building was constructed under the watchful eye of Twin Cites architect Warren H. Hayes in 1897, the stained glass is being removed for a detailed — and expensive — cleaning and restoration.
"Stained glass is something that needs to be restored about every 100 years or so," Deters said. "It has been well over that, so if someone doesn't take action, the glass begins to break and fall out."
No one wants that. So in January, the church began a campaign that so far has raised about 80 percent of the estimated $150,000 needed to complete the project. That was enough for Deters to call in experts and get the work started.
Coming for the cames
Stained glass windows are delicate creatures. Some contain scores or even hundreds of individual pieces of glass held together by lead strips called "cames" and cement.
Over time, gravity pulls the soft metal of the cames toward the earth, loosening their grip on the glass and forcing renovation.
Over the course of the months-long repair project, the glass will be completely removed from the old strips and placed in replacement cames made of a lead-antimony alloy that is much more resistant to sagging and could last several hundred years.
At the end of the project, the church will get back essentially new stained glass windows with the original, 122-year-old glass retained.
Planning for the painstaking project has been underway for several years; the first phase was to refurbish 14 stained glass windows from above the chapel. The Staige Studio in Onalaska did that work last year, at a cost of $16,325.
The main event is the removal, crating and shipment of the four most-deteriorated windows in the church — a delicate process that began this week. The project includes temporary removal of the main sanctuary windows to Willet-Hauser Associated Glass of Winona, Minn. There, the glass will be cleaned and installed into new cames. The final phase will be the removal and rebuilding of the remaining 42 windows, which will take place on site in Ashland. All told the project will take about a year and a half.
Lots of praying
Deters said Willet-Hauser has been in the business of building and restoring stained glass for more than 100 years. The firm is the largest stained glass studio in the United States and specializes in an ancient craft.
Deters said the stained glass project had its genesis a decade ago when the church undertook its Project of a Generation planning effort that saw a thorough restoration effort made throughout the church.
"We knew then that the windows needed to be done, but we had to take care of the bricks and mortar first," he said. "So the congregation waited 10 years and the time is now."
Deters said the congregation feels a strong connection to its church, but also to its neighbors.
"I hope that this is a sanctuary for the community," he said. "A sanctuary in all senses of the word. This congregation feels a close tie to the community. They feel that without their relationship to the community that there is no point in having a church."
Deters said he believed the commitment to renew the church's stained glass was "a bold statement."
"This church intends to shelter generations more people in this community," he said.
Congregation member Ernie Bliss, who also serves on the church's facilities and grounds committee, said the undertaking was a leap of faith for church members both in making the financial commitment and entrusting their beloved stained glass windows to the hands of the Willet-Hauser artisans for reconstruction.
Bliss got some firsthand experience on the care that requires Saturday, when he volunteered to help out the two-man stained glass crew remove one of the windows.
"They needed a third hand. The two workers were outside on the cherry-picker and the window just wouldn't come out," he said. "I heard them say, 'Boy it would be great to have a third person on this job.'"
Bliss offered his services. They handed him a small hammer and instructed him to go into the church and gently tap on the outside edge of the window frame to dislodge the window from the old glazing.
Naturally, Bliss was pretty nervous about rapping with a hammer anywhere near the century-plus-old stained glass.
"There was a lot of praying going on," he said.
Despite his misgivings, the window at last came free and was lowered to the ground.
"It was amazing, the complications they ran into," Bliss said. "It was more work than they expected in some places, but they were up to the task."
Passing it on
The two-man crew consisted of Casey Deakman and A. J. Malcomson. As he used a hammer and chisel to break through the old glazing Tuesday, Deakman said lowering the fragile glass from the outside at times terrifies even a seasoned crew like his.
"The majority of windows can be brought down from the inside, which is a lot better, because then you don't have to float the panel down from 30 feet," he said.
Still, after working at more than 200 churches in 46 states around the country, Deakman and Malcomson appeared to have the process down pat. They broke the panel free from the window pane, reinforced it with blue masking tape and gingerly moved it to a wood backing, attaching it with bungee cords before lowering it to the ground.
Deakman marveled at the original craftsmen who didn't have a portable hydraulic lift at their disposal when the windows were installed.
"I guess they had to build a scaffolding to do it. That's crazy," he said.
The windows will be gone for eight to 10 months, Deakman said. While the windows are out, the congregation won't have to look at boarded-up spaces. A sheet of Plexiglas with a transparency of the missing windows will be temporarily installed, a simulation so convincing that it takes a close examination to reveal the substitution.
Once the windows are put back in place, the substitutes will be removed and discarded, Deakman said.
It is a laborious process, but church officials say they felt obligated to see it through, just as congregations in the past passed the landmark church on to them.
"We feel like we are stewards of our grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's church," Deters said.
Hoping for sunshine and warmer weather, Thompson West End Park Campground hosts Steve and Shirley Bohnert will set up camp this weekend as the Washburn campground opens after a 16-day delay to the season.
Snow melts from latewinter heavy snowstorms compounded by intermittent early-spring rainfalls saturated the ground, prompting delays to the openings of several campgrounds and trails in the Chequamegon Bay area.
Bob Anderson, Washburn's public works director, said concerns over the park's pressurized water system was the primary reason the city chose not to open West End Park Campground as scheduled on April 15. Cold temperatures at night might have frozen the water lines.
But city crews also had their work cut out for them
dealing with saturated ground conditions from snow melt and rain.
The city added material to a "super-saturated" area on a low road in the campground. Crews topped the work with compost and started installing a tile drain along the road. They will seed the area with grass in the future, but in the meantime three campsites are out of commission for about a month.
Basically, the city needs some dry weather, Anderson said as he looked over the snow-frosted ground on a chilly and damp Monday afternoon.
"But Mother Nature hasn't been cooperating so well with us," he said.
The city also has tackled improvement projects in the restrooms of the West End and Memorial Park campgrounds. Crews "did an outstanding job" and basically rebuilt the interiors of the restrooms at Memorial Park, Anderson said. At West End, they were deep cleaned, repainted and sealed.
The Bohnerts are excited to return for their second season as campground hosts, planning to arrive with their 32-foot camper the first weekend in May. They will take up their posts to help campers, hand out cable boxes for television and make sure people enjoy their stay.
It's always nice to meet new people and old friends, Steve Bohnert said.
They won't be the first to set up camp, however. A seasonal camper arrived the last weekend of April and set up a trailer right across from the bathrooms. Although the campers appeared before the officially opening, they weren't staying in their campground, Anderson said.
The U.S. Forest Service decided to delay the opening of some Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest campgrounds and all trails because of lingering snow packs and high water.
Tim Vetter, the recreation, wilderness and lands program manager for Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, said in a news release that the agency is working to get trails and campgrounds open as soon as possible.
Persisting snow and high water prevented the agency from preparing the trails for a Wednesday opening and some campgrounds for a Thursday opening.
The Forest Service will update campground and trail openings on website fs.usda.gov/cnnf and its Facebook page
An Ashland woman recently opened a day spa where fat cells and sagging, wrinkling skin are the targets of her treatments.
Jenny Deragon, with the help of her husband, Michael Stone, left a 20-year career in nursing to open Jenny's Beauty Lab at 1416 Third St. W. She said she always wanted to own a business, and after scouring the area to find a place offering spa treatments and coming up empty, she thought opening a salon would be fun and needed.
Deragon offers ultrasonic cavitation, cryolipolysis and lipo laser — all noninvasive treatments — to reduce fat deposits in targeted areas and contour the body.
With the cavitation treatment, ultrasonic waves cause fat cells to vibrate and bump into each other until they explode. The body's lymphatic system disposes of the resulting fatty "stew," she said.
"That's my favorite treatment because you see instant results, instant gratification," Deragon said; one customer lost 5.9 inches in one session using the technique — a record for the newly opened day spa.
Cryolipolysis, known as the fat-freezing treatment, freezes fat cells to speed up their deaths and causes them to crystalize. A person could see up to a 30 percent reduction of fat in the treated area, she said.
Lipo laser shrinks fat cells when laser energy perforates fat cell membranes, causing them to release fatty acids. Deragon took a course and received certification to offer the service.
Deragon also gives radio frequency treatments, which help smooth and tighten the skin, and will affix eyelash extensions.
The state Department of Safety and Professional Services did not immediately respond to Daily Press questions about licensing requirements pertaining to these treatments or their efficacy.
Deragon and her husband emphasized that the spa's services were not to promote weight loss, but instead shape and contour the body in ways diet and exercise can't.
But that's not to say the couple dismissed the need
for exercise. They actually have an exercise bicycle for clients to use to rev up the body's detox system to help it flush fat from the body.
Jenny's Beauty Lab has been up and running since the second week in April. Deragon, the mother of five children ranging in age from 1 to 15, has made it her full-time occupation, but Stone continues to work as a milk-truck driver.
Deragon will be giving facial radio frequency treatments for $25 — the usual cost is $100 per treatment area — on May 5 at The Gathering Barn in Ashland if people would like to sample her services.
Otherwise, for more information or to make an appointment, call 715-292-6808.