Stained Glass: From Fixing Small Cracks to Re-Creating Entire Windows at Fair Lane

Kevin Ellwood and the staff at Merry Go Round Stained Glass Co. create beautiful works of art, but they also repair and restore everything from sconces and light fixtures to windows.

Merry Go Round staff have more than 30 years of experience with glass. Ellwood has worked with Detroit Red Wings players, Meadow Brook Hall, Grosse Pointe Academy and many others who have watched with horror as a golf ball or other object shattered one of their prized glass windows.

“I consider it job security,” laughs Ellwood, who has along with his father developed a reputation at Merry Go Round for tackling intricate repair work with grace and their signature patient style.

So when it came to working at Fair Lane, Ellwood approached the work at the home of Henry and Clara Ford with a kind of reverence. Merry Go Round had experience at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford Estate, so they had a feel for the history and type of products used when these great homes were originally built.

For Ellwood, it all comes back to the challenge that brought him into the glass business in the first place – finding ways to bring historic windows back to their original splendor using modern techniques and old-fashioned wisdom.

“We try to focus on quality. Stained glass can have incredible detail, and that takes incredible effort,” Ellwood said. “When we’re doing historic restoration, we want to make it as good as the original if not better.”

At Fair Lane, the area of primary concern is the original entryway, where an entire glass panel near the front door has to be recreated.

“We were originally contacted to come and look at the front entry – the area had three panels per door that were leaded, heavily painted and etched for decorative purposes,” Ellwood said. “At some point, maybe in the 1970s or 1980s, a woman’s bathroom was installed for the public, and the stained glass was removed for privacy purposes. Most of it was found, but no one knows what happened to one of the panels.”

Having the originals on site means Merry Go Round has the exact materials to study.

“To recreate the front panel we need, we have to totally disassemble one of the original panes to replicate the design precisely,” Ellwood said. “We’ll examine every detail of it until we complete it with the same glass, painting and etching. Once we verify it’s a good match, then we’ll reinstall it.”

That is easier said than done. Finding the right glass has been an effort in and of itself.

“There are three factories globally that make the glass like it was back then – it has the same surface texture, the same color, the same type of bubbles,” he said.

They found a Polish factory that is able to provide the glass they needed. But the factory doesn’t have an English-speaking employee and the glass has to be shipped across the ocean, adding extra challenges to the project.

Meanwhile, Ellwood has gone through the rest of the estate to evaluate the stained glass across the various rooms. Some windows and doors could be fixed on site, while others have had to be carefully removed to the Troy studio for restoration.

“They’ve lived a hard life, some of these windows,” Ellwood said. “We’ve had to take some out, properly restore them, rebuild them and reinstall them. … So far, the repairs that we’ve completed are basically undetectable. They look exactly like the original condition, so we’re extremely satisfied.”