After a two-year leave of absence, a familiar soldier is set to resume his rightful place in the Bellingen Memorial Hall.
The stained glass window featuring a soldier hand-painted and kiln-fired into glass was removed from the front of the hall in April 2017, because the lead holding the panes had deteriorated and this was causing the glass to buckle and crack.
The window was an original part of the Memorial Hall, which opened on ANZAC Day 1929 and was built to pay tribute to the 960 men and women of the district who served during World War 1.
Mid North Coast glass expert Christine Stewart said restoring The Soldier's Window, which is listed on the NSW Register of War Memorials, was an honour.
"It is wonderful that it will again be housed in the Memorial Hall," she said. "It is an exceptional piece of historic value to our community and although in very poor condition when it arrived at our studio, it has now been fully reconstructed with 90 per cent of the original glass retained and beaming with new life."
The first steps in the restoration process involved stripping the frail lead canes from the window and taking a rubbing to ensure each piece of glass could be put back to its original position.
Then the entire panel was re-leaded, soldered, puttied and polished.
"Any cracked or damaged pieces of glass within the panel were replaced with the closest reproduction glass possible," Christine said.
Christine has been holding the restored soldier safely in her studio until the Memorial Hall was ready to receive him.
In August 2018, council received $92,243 in funding from a Heritage Near Me Activation Grant to renovate the upstairs area and reinstall the Soldier's Window in its original location, and in October 2018 it received $335,151 to stabilise the physical structure of the building and paint it inside and out.
The renovation and refurbishment of the upstairs area began on April 5, and when complete it will be used as a community co-working space, a community meeting room and a leased office, generating revenue for the hall's future maintenance.
To foster appreciation of the hall's history and raise awareness about the readapted upstairs area, council will also install interpretive signage in the downstairs foyer.
These works, which are expected to be complete by the end of May, are the first step in the more extensive transformation already in the planning after an additional $3.3 million grant from Create NSW's Regional Culture Fund.
The full redevelopment, including a new extension at the rear of the hall, should be complete by the end of 2021.