I've seen a lot of re-purposed windows in decorating magazines and online. I now have had the privilege of salvaging a couple old windows myself.
This old building used to be a country schoolhouse, and then it was bought to be a church building. I don't know how old it is exactly, but I met someone who went to school here in the 1920's. I guess that means that I can safely say that the building is coming close to one hundred years old, but it could be older. The multi-paned windows were all around this building originally. The above photo is from 1972.
Over the years, update after update, replacement after replacement, and the need to renovate for different purposes, have altered this old building. The change from a schoolhouse with desks to a church building with pews, and the addition of more rooms took out many of the old windows. The entrance was moved from the gabled end shown above, to another part of the building. That was my grandfather's idea, who preached here for many years. There were two old windows left, on either side of this gable, and those were the ones I salvaged.
It was time for the windows to be replaced with modern ones that wouldn't let all the cold air in. I was happy to have the old ones! Since one pane in each window was cracked, and I didn't have any replacements, and since the glass made the window so heavy, I thought it best to take all the panes out. I also only saved the top half of the window, as the bottom halves were much rotted from the weather. Several days of scraping away many types of plaster that held the panes in, and pane-stakingly (sorry, I couldn't resist!) taking out the little metal tabs that also held the panes in, left me with the wooden window frame.
A bit of advice to anyone who may want to try this-- set a big cardboard box under your saw horses as you work. It will catch all the bits of glass and plaster and make clean up easier. Next, the glass will break, even if you are careful, and actually on most of my project it was much easier to get out that way, and let me have a go at the stuff that was plastering it in with more vigor. Wear work gloves. Lastly, slow and steady is better than having an accident with sharp tools and shards of glass!
A nice coat of paint (Benjamin Moore "Capri Coast") and my week's project is done! I gave one window to my mother, and the other I'll keep. Shown above is the window displayed on my mother's wall, above the mantel. I'm sure she'll have it decorated in many interesting ways as the seasons change. I haven't decided what to do with mine yet, so it is leaning against the wall. I'm glad that I have a story to tell about the building that these windows came from, and the relation to my family, so that instead of just being another decoration, they may become a family treasure.
For all kinds of ideas for old windows, just do an image search for "recycling old window into decor," or here is a site with lots of uses for old windows!