A downtown Edmonton church built two years before Alberta became a province is getting a modern-day makeover.

First Presbyterian Church on 105th Street, just south of Jasper Avenue, was built in 1903.

The church has just started a five-year restoration project, which includes dismantling, repairing, cleaning and reassembling the huge stained glass window that faces 105th Street.

The stained glass was set in stone, in the European tradition. Church spokesman Darrel Babuk has counted 1,137 individual pieces of stained glass.  The window covers more than 600 square feet, making it the largest leaded window in Alberta.

John Gilroy of Vancouver arrived this week to begin the painstaking work of restoring that glass.

It will take him about two weeks to remove the panels. He will cut and place plexi-glass to act as temporary replacements for the real glass.

The panels will be trucked to his shop on the West Coast, restored there, then brought back and re-installed.

"Every piece of lead has got to be stripped off," Gilroy told CBC News. "And we have to clean all this very dirty glass individually."

Originally from England, Gilroy has worked on many churches and cathedrals and has restored stained glass that dates back to the 12th century.

He moved to Canada about 10 years ago and started Gilroy Stained Glass in Vancouver.

The west window will take 18 months to restore and will cost $700,000. That doesn't include the cost of scaffolding or repairs to the masonry. The church is still raising money to cover those costs.

Local architect David Murray did a conservation study of the church two years ago. That led to an official request for historic designation. The city agreed and First Presbyterian was designated a municipal historic resource. That made funding available for the rehabilitation.

"Part of the agreement was that the city would pay half of the restoration costs," Murray said.

Provincial funding is also being made available through Heritage Alberta.

Gilroy said he can't wait for people to see the windows when the work is finally done.

"On this one, I'm really looking forward ... that we've got the opportunity to actually bring it back to its original glory."