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Huntington’s oldest black church gets grant to restore windows

The Rev. Larry D. Jennings Sr. of Bethel

The Rev. Larry D. Jennings Sr. of Bethel A.M.E. Church, left, and Huntington Town historian Robert Hughes inspect the stained-glass windows that will be restored on on Dec. 15, 2017. Credit: Barry Sloan

Stained-glass windows in the Town of Huntington’s oldest African-American church are getting cleaned up.

Bethel A.M.E. Church on Park Avenue received a $10,000 grant from the New York Landmarks Conservancy through its Sacred Sites program in May. It also has received a $20,000 grant from the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation in October. The money will be used to restore eight windows that flank the church’s nave that church and town officials say are in desperate need of repair.

“This is very exciting for us because this has been a project that has long been discussed and contemplated,” said the Rev. Larry D. Jennings Sr., the church’s leader for nine years. “It’s necessary work, but preserving these historic windows and rich history adds to the excitement.”

The double-hung, round-headed, operable windows that all feature the same geometric pattern in such colors as green, amber and white, were installed when the church was built in 1924. One pays homage to the junior choir and others to prominent church members at the time, such as Huntington resident Charles Ballton, the son of Samuel Ballton, an entrepreneur in Greenlawn who became known as the “Pickle King” after selling 1.5 million pickles in one season.

Jennings said for some in his congregation, the project takes on an even more personal connection because a few current members are related to people who have windows dedicated to them.

“This project means a lot to them,” Jennings said.

The church has also applied to the Gerry Charitable Trust for a $5,000 grant that would also go toward window repairs. The trust meets in the spring, town historian Robert Hughes said.

“These windows are in really bad shape and they need restoration so they can continue to grace the church,” Hughes said. “It’s the oldest African-American church in town, so it makes it a very special place and we want to make sure it’s in the very best condition it can be.”

Jennings said with the help of the Huntington and Northport historical societies and Hughes, church officials were able to apply for the grants. Hughes said the grant programs are very competitive.

“The applications are very involved and a lot of people are seeking funding under both these programs,” Hughes said. “It’s a testament to the importance of the church that both organizations gave grants.”

The plan is to have the windows restored in pairs, with each set taking eight to 10 weeks to repair, Hughes said. The first pair was recently removed and transported to the glass restorer’s studio and work began on them in late November, Hughes said. The entire restoration should be complete by the fall.

There are an additional five stained-glass windows in the church that do not need extensive restoration at this time, Jennings said.

Joel Snodgrass of Huntington-based Steward Preservation Services LLP is an architectural conservator who is serving as the contractor overseeing the restoration. Studio Restorations in East Marion is the glass specialist, and Glen Cove-based Traditional Window Restoration Inc. is restoring the wood. Snodgrass said the windows will be removed, disassembled, and the wood and glass will be stabilized, repaired and cleaned by the conservators.

“These windows ranged from very bad condition to moderate, so there is a range of severity,” Snodgrass said. “This is similar to any other conservation project, and the conservators doing this have quite a bit of experience.”

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