Exhibitionists·Video

Massey Hall's stunning stained glass windows were hidden for decades. Watch them come back to life

Talk about a glow up. Birds were nesting in them, but now a team is "pane-stakingly" restoring these Art Nouveau treasures back to their original glory.

Talk about a glow up. Birds were nesting in them, but now a team is 'pane-stakingly' restoring these treasures

Light streams through two of Massey Hall's windows that have been restored. (CBC Arts)

Toronto's Massey Hall is a legendary performance venue that's hosted countless greats on its stage since it opened its doors in 1894. But in July 2018, the downtown hall closed for a much-needed 145 million dollar restoration project that will take two years to complete. And one incredible forgotten feature of the building is finally getting some love: the 93 spectacular stained glass windows that have been hidden since the 1950s.

Watch the video:

Amanda Parris gets a step-by-step look at the restoration of Massey Hall's stained glass windows 6:10

The Art Nouveau-style windows were created in the 1890s by the Faircloth Brothers in Toronto, but have been shuttered behind plywood for decades to keep light and street noise from disturbing the hall's performances. The first step in the glass restoration was to carefully remove the windows and transport them to two glass studios in Toronto, EGD Glass and Vitreous Glassworks. The restoration teams have their work cut out for them — dismantling, cleaning, re-leading, weatherproofing and in some cases painting over 1600 sq ft of stained glass.

"Everything that we do is reversible," explains EGD's principal and lead conservator Eve Guinan. "We don't damage the integrity of any of the original — we just add anything that can be removed."

CBC Arts's Amanda Parris visited EGD Glass in Toronto's West End, where Guinan walked her through the fascinating process of bringing these historic windows back to life.

Eve Guinan shows Amanda Parris how the stained glass windows are dismantled, cleaned, and then put back together with lead came. (CBC Arts)
Pieces of a stained glass window are laid out on a board to show the original glass on the left and the cleaned glass on the right. (CBC Arts)
There are 12 stained glass windows at Massey Hall with hand-painted portraits of famous composers. These windows require special conservation. (CBC Arts)
Lead conservator Eve Guinan shows Amanda Parris a window with a portrait of Beethoven that will be restored by Guinan's team. (CBC Arts)
The stained glass windows are carefully removed from Massey Hall. (Jag Gundu / Massey Hall)
The architect's rendering of Massey Hall's interior after its 2-year renovation. The stained glass windows glow in the upper levels of the hall. (Massey Hall / KPMB Architects)

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