AUBURN, Ind. — It started with a wrecking ball and a phone call.

The wrecking ball was poised in the fall of 2009 to demolish Auburn’s McIntosh School, which had been home to a high school, middle school and elementary school during its 88-year history.

Carol Foley made the phone call to her husband. Both had attended the school.

“I did call Steve, at work, and said, ‘We’re not discussing this. I’m bidding on the McIntosh windows,'” she recalled.

Carol Foley successfully bought the set of ornate, stained-glass windows that decorated the front of the school for $1,500 in an auction.

“I just could not bear the thought of them going under the wrecking ball,” she said at the time.

During the phone call, Steve Foley asked what his wife intended to do with the windows. The Foleys still haven’t figured that out, entirely.

But this winter, the process of restoring the windows to their original beauty got underway at last.

“They’ve been after me for a number of years now to help them restore them,” said Don Muckenfuss of Auburn.

“Years!” Steve Foley interjected in jest.

Muckenfuss, who also attended McIntosh School, once owned a stained-glass shop in Auburn, working on projects such as restoring church windows.

“Once I got married and had a family, I had to get a real job,” he said. He continued with stained-glass work on side for a number of years, but finally gave it up.

“This is kind of pulling me back to it. . I haven’t done if for a long time, and it’s been an enjoyable project,” he said.

So far, Muckenfuss has restored three of the 20 stained-glass panels that made up the McIntosh windows.

“Each window probably takes about 40 man-hours total, so it’s very labor-intensive,” he said.

Muckenfuss and the Foleys are dividing the tasks. The Foleys are disassembling the windows, cleaning the individual panes of glass and cataloging where they belong in the window patterns.

When they find panes that are damaged or missing, the Foleys travel to Kokomo Opalescent Glass, a company that made the original panes and remains a thriving business a century later.

Veteran employees at the glass company diligently find the right match for each pane from the thousands of color samples in their inventory.

When a window is ready to assemble, Muckenfuss carefully trims the panes to precise dimensions and joins them using strips of lead came — the way the windows were made originally. He then solders the joints between sections and cements the entire window.

One finished window needed only a half-dozen new panes of glass. In other cases, entire windows have to be replaced. In some cases, rocks thrown by children damaged the windows years ago.

Five tall windows on the school’s second floor were made of three sections each. A decorative window arching over the front entrance consisted of five sections.

Muckenfuss’ talent with glass traces back to his days as a freshman at Indiana University, when he took an interest in a stained-glass shop in downtown Bloomington

Muckenfuss tried to teach himself the art from books. Eventually, he took a job at a stained-glass shop in Indianapolis, where he worked for about a year and learned proper techniques before opening his former shop in Auburn.

Muckenfuss said he’s pleased that he could finish three windows this winter, when following his daughter’s show choir contests occupied much of his time. The work should move faster, now.

Looking ahead to completion, the Foleys are considering the idea of building a room on the south side of their house, where they would install the windows so people could see them while driving on C.R. 27 north of Auburn.

“I can’t tell you how many times we are out and people say, ‘Hey, how are you doing with those McIntosh windows?'” Carol Foley said.

Back in 2009, she said, “I remember one of the concerns was: Will they be separated, and will they leave town?” The answers are no, and no.

As for the windows’ future, all the answers are coming up yes.

When the restoration is finished, Muckenfuss said, “They should be good for another 100 years. But it’s a very time-consuming process.”

Source: The (Kendalville) News-Sun,

Information from: The News-Sun,

This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Kendalville) News-Sun.

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