By Richard M. Madowitz, Owner and Property Manager
Later this month, we will refurbish and expand an historic window assemblage, installing six new stained-glass window panels designed by a local artist on the Chestnut Staircase behind Share coffee shop. We commissioned Heather McLean, the owner of Dragonfly Stained Glass Studio in Easthampton, to design the panels, which are part of an elaborate, two-and-a-half-story window grouping.
Each new arts-and-crafts-style panel created by Heather is identical, measuring 4-feet high by 2-feet wide. They combine bold orange squares with deep blue edging and long, vertical, pale yellow highlights, and all six windows together will fill a space that is roughly 8-feet high by 6-feet wide.
Above Heather’s stained-glass windows, three tiers of windows original to the building—one overarching transom window and two tiers of oblong windows—will be cleaned, painted and reinstalled to further refresh the entire collection.
The panels Heather designed replace three original stained-glass windows that could not be restored; they will be cleaned, refurbished and hung in the building at a later date as an art sculpture.
Over the past 10 years, Thornes has taken on a series of major renovations to improve and enhance the eclectic shopping center, including the recreation by a Vermont artist of stained-glass window panels along the Grand Staircase a few years ago.
We really liked the way the rejuvenated window panels looked. We felt like we were adding to the historic authenticity of the building. This time, when we got ready to refresh the Chestnut Staircase assembly, we preferred to work with a local artist.
Familiar with Heather and her work, our Marketing Manager, Jody Doele, referred Heather to Jon McGee, our facilities manager, and myself.
Installation of all new window panels is expected to occur in late July and will not disrupt business. Shops will be open and accessible during normal business hours; visitors are encouraged to use the main staircase.
Thornes has been the cornerstone of downtown Northampton and at the center of the Main Street shopping district for more than a century. Built in 1873, it holds 55,000 square feet of space for merchants and includes features like pressed tin ceilings and hardwood floors.
Recent renovations, completed without harm to the historic highlights, have included the remodeling of several bathrooms, which are now fully handicapped accessible; the addition of oak handrails along the walls of the Grand Staircases; and, in partnership with Herrell’s Ice Cream, the replacement of a staircase with a ramp, making the ice cream parlor accessible from within Thornes for the first time in its nearly 40-year history.
In April, renovations centered on the main entrance, replacing the 30-year-old wooden doors with wider doors equipped with modern power operators compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Further aesthetic improvements included a raised, coffered ceiling; new, custom-stained oak doors; dramatic chandelier lighting; and new floor tiling. The Florence Bank ATM enclosure was also renovated to fit the period.
The current window replacement project is the third to be undertaken at Thornes. The next phase will involve replacement of all remaining windows on the first floor.
When we finish up this phase with the stained glass, we will be 60 percent done with window replacement and restoration. The remaining 40 percent will be completed in 2019.
One of our main goals in this work is to increase visibility and light within the stores while also increasing energy efficiency. With the same goal in mind, our management will focus next on replacing the building’s lighting to make it more cosmetically appealing and brighter.