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After nearly 30 years, historic stained glass window project almost complete (7 photos)

Charlie and Wendy Thomlinson on last leg of glass restoration project for Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel

The Sault’s Charlie and Wendy Thomlinson, owners of Glassworks, are completing work on the historic Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel’s stained glass windows, restoring and repairing some pieces, adding new pieces of glass as needed.

Over the years, the coloured glass has faded or has cracked due to age or sadly, vandalism.

The Thomlinsons have been working on the Fauquier job on and off for the past 30 years, as finances became available to the chapel’s committee.

“With this last round, they’ve been coming in every six months for the past couple of years, so it looks like this time they’re going to pull it all together,” Wendy said, speaking to SooToday.

“I’m really excited. We can now finish what we started,” Charlie said, estimating the project will be finished by summer or fall.

Modestly yet confidently, Charlie said, “We’ve been doing this a long time, and when this job is done, the chapel’s windows are going to be just like they originally were. We’re excited to be part of this.”

The Thomlinsons are currently working on 21 of the chapel’s windows, Charlie estimating the Fauquier project is consuming 50 per cent of their work time, assisted by a Barrie artist on some of the more intricate parts of the task.

At one point during the process, Charlie sent some of the glass pieces to the Royal Ontario Museum, eager to learn some of the history behind the windows.

Four years passed, the glass returned to Charlie by the ROM, an accompanying letter stating the glass had been analyzed, most likely having been made by McCasland Glass, a company still in existence today.

The Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel was built between 1881 and 1883 on the former Shingwauk Residential School site, operated by the Anglican Diocese of Algoma.

The chapel’s structure includes red sandstone, with Gothic and Tudor architectural styles, almost unaltered since the time of its construction.

Glassworks also provides decorative glass windows for kitchens and custom glass doors for residential customers.

“There’s a lot to it. Sometimes we work with lead or zinc or copper on our stained glass window projects. Every job is different,” said Charlie, while showing us around the Glassworks shop.

The Thomlinsons began working with glass out of their home in 1980.

“It was mostly churches, and when it started getting busy at our house we moved out and moved into this location here (308 Queen St. E.) about 22 years ago,” Charlie said.

The couple reside above the shop and own the building, Charlie’s great-grandfather the building’s original owner (the structure historic in its own right).

“We’ve worked on a lot of churches around town. Not all of them, but most of them. We’ve been working on four churches this year alone,” Charlie said.

Apart from being well known and respected for their work locally, word of Charlie and Wendy’s talents spread over the years.

“We do virtually anything to do with decorative glass. We’ve done many, many churches, including churches in Sault, Michigan, Richmond Hill, Sudbury, Wawa, Chapleau and all points between,” Charlie said.

Charlie previously worked at Algoma Steel, Wendy as a lab technician at the Group Health Centre, then at LifeLabs, before devoting their time, energy and talents to Glassworks.

“Some people go to Barbados. This is our retirement,” Charlie chuckled.

The couple do both restorations and new creations for customers and hold glasswork classes at the store (Glassworks also offering a variety of glass gift items for sale, almost all of it made on site).

“With me, I had a very structured job before, and this has given me artistic licence, to create, without that 7 to 3 routine. We drive around town and say ‘we did that, we did that.’ It’s gratifying,” Wendy said.

“I’ve always liked a challenge. I like to take a look at something and say ‘this is a real mess’ and repair it. I like to work on old things,” said Charlie, who has also performed restoration work on the Sault Ste. Marie Museum’s clock face and the GFL Memorial Gardens interior stained glass window.


Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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