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Church celebrates refurbishing stained-glass windows, becoming Washington County historic landmark

During the Sunday service on June 16, Church of the Covenant in Washington will be celebrating a "historical change" after refurbishing its stained-glass windows.

"We will be celebrating not only our new windows, but for receiving a historical landmark designation from Washington County," said Dr. Stuart D. Broberg, pastor of Church of the Covenant. The windows were put in by Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios in 1929. Almost a century later, the same company refurbished the existing windows.

First, all of the glass was removed from the church. A plastic outer cover was removed, cleaned and replaced. Broberg said any glass that was damaged or cracked was replaced with the original glass from 90 years ago. 

"There's a warehouse that held leftover glass from the first time it was put in, so any pieces that were cracked or damaged were replaced with the original glass," Broberg said. 

Broberg said the windows are insured for $2 million.

"It isn't just money value, but the value is more about the history behind the windows."

The church started the "Let There Be Light" campaign in January 2018 in hopes of raising $550,000 for multiple projects including refinishing the windows, establishing scholarships for the church preschool and building a church in Haiti. Broberg said the fundraiser exceeded the goal.

"We raised more than $750,000," Broberg said. "That was an accomplishment beyond our hopes." 

The project was finished in March, but the remaining projects such as the church in Haiti won't be completed until 2020.

"The ground has been cleared, but we probably won't see that up and running until late 2020," Broberg said.

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Warco secures Democratic and Republican nominations for coroner; no new voting machines until 2020

Washington County now plans to purchase and deploy new voting machines in time for the April 2020 presidential primary election.

While machines with a paper audit trail won’t be part of the next election on Nov. 5, Melanie Ostrander, Washington County elections director, said changes are afoot as to where some voters will be casting ballots.

Among the changes that won court approval in 2017 are expansion of the number of precincts in Cecil, North Strabane and South Strabane townships; a change in precinct boundaries in Amwell Township; and consolidation of Donegal Township’s three precincts into two.

A decrease in the number of Canton Township precincts took effect during the recent May 21 primary election.

Voters in some Cecil and North Strabane polling places faced long lines during the 2016 presidential election, but the state requires no more than 1,200 registered voters per precinct to keep voters from becoming discouraged and opting not to cast ballots due to waiting times.

The elections office is still in the process of finding additional polling places, but voters who are being reassigned will be notified by letter over the summer.

The Washington County canvass board completed its tasks late Tuesday afternoon, and incumbent Democratic Coroner Tim Warco secured a Republican nomination with 315 write-in votes in addition to that of his own party. No Republican filed in March for the post.

The canvass board’s wrap-up sets in motion a five-day challenge period. Because the final day is Sunday, when the courthouse is closed, the last day to challenge results by filing with the prothonotary will be Monday, June 10.

Ernie Pyle visits with a tank crew of the 91st Tank Battalion in the Anzio Beachhead, circa March 1944.

Venerable Beechie's Place for sale in Chartiers

A longtime, well-regarded restaurant in central Washington County is for sale.

Beechie’s Place, a Chartiers Township staple since 1952, is on the market. The destination dining spot, however, will remain open until a buyer emerges, said Terri Sokoloff, a broker with Specialty Group, a North Hills organization that deals in restaurant and bar services.

Lisa McFarland and her son, Lane, have owned the West Pike Street facility since 2010. Lane also has resided there. Family matters have led them to pursue a sale, Lisa said.

Lane, the chef, is relocating to Richmond, Va., where his wife has secured a job. She is expected to receive a doctorate in psychology this summer.

“They actually may have to live together,” his mother said jokingly Wednesday.

She said she will become a caretaker for her parents. All four live in the Chartiers-Houston area.

The situation has created a share of familial angst.

“(Beechie’s) is kind of an icon in the community,” Lisa said.

“We’d hate for it not to continue. It’s always been a family restaurant and bar.”

Soups, sandwiches, burgers and wings are among the favorites there. Buying local, she said, has been a priority.

She said her son also has served as bar and kitchen manager and social media director, but as with most small businesses, all owners play significant roles. Beechie’s has kept both McFarlands busy.

Beechie’s has had few changes at the top. Frank Bonazza and his wife, Sophie, launched the enterprise 67 years ago.

They relinquished ownership in 1974 to Chuck Phillips, who expanded the place and ran it for 36 years, until the McFarlands took over.

Beechie’s serves food from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It has always been closed Sunday.

As for the sale, Lisa is hoping for a fortuitous outcome.

“All of our employees are like family’” she said. “We’ll do our best so they can continue, as normal. All of our customers are like friends and family. They love the place for what it is.

“I hope somebody who appreciates Beechie’s will have interest.”