New Illuminations Bring Bruton Parish Church into the Twenty-First Century

With a rich past, it is understandable that Bruton Parish Church was very careful about renovations and enhancements throughout the years. Although hesitant to modify the existing lighting scheme the solution was ultimately well received.

New Illuminations Bring Bruton Parish Church into the Twenty-First Century
Need images still from Creston
New Illuminations Bring Bruton Parish Church into the Twenty-First Century
Need images still from Creston

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One of oldest churches in America, Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, has a storied history. Established in the 17th century, this historic landmark was the place of worship for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. It’s bell, which was cast in 1761, rung out in 1776 to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and again in 1873 to rejoice at the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which marked the end of the Revolutionary War.

With such a rich past, it is understandable that Bruton Parish Church was very careful about renovations and enhancements throughout the years. Through much of the 20th century, the church has seen incremental upgrades to its lighting system, which included the installation of electric wiring in 1907 to its latest extensive upgrade in 2008.

“The client was hesitant to modify the existing lighting scheme, out of concern that it would alter the Church’s historical uniqueness,” said Adam Theis, OPTECH.NET’s CTS (Certified Technology Specialist). “But they persevered, and the solution was ultimately well received.”

That existing lighting scheme referenced by Theis included small lighting fixtures in the sanctuary, two sconces in each of Bruton’s three galleries, natural light, and chandeliers and holders that required a total of 73 real candles, costing more than $12,000 a year. Clearly, a modern and safer approach was required.

With the help of a referral, Bruton’s Facility Manager, Mike Wanless, hired Crestron dealer OPTECH.NET (Office/Pro Technologies Inc.) to help implement an affordable and workable lighting system that would preserve the church’s 18th century ambiance—a tall order when confronted with Bruton’s 27-inch masonry walls and foot-high crawl space, which made running feeds to replacement fixtures and installing new panels both impractical and at times impossible. Other challenges for the OPTECH team included the inability to install traditional switches in multiple areas and running them from several existing several panels, which would have caused excessive wall clutter.

To overcome the many obstacles OPTECH faced, the team furnished and programmed concealed, scene-based lighting controls built upon Crestron’s infiNET wireless mesh technology—a cost-effective solution integrated by Two Rivers Electrical Services to minimize the amount of electrical cabling needed for the retrofit.
OPTECH brought a simple user experience to the forefront with programmed presets on a Crestron iLux integrated lighting system located in the small room behind the altar (the sacristy). Fully operational from wireless remotes and hidden keypads, the system’s presets include “Chandelier”, for control of the two small chandeliers on either side of the altar; “Chancel”, tied to the sconces located in the chancel, or altar area; “Globes”, the small light fixtures at each doorway; “Sconces”, all the electric candles, and “Preset”, which illuminates all connected fixtures at an 80-percent dim level.

The Creston system also enhances the custom-made, natural beeswax electric candles by Elcanco, with Rick Boye, Bruton Parish Church Junior Warden, noting that, “We now have the look and feel of real candles, with greater safety, simpler maintenance, and the ability to increase illumination on cloudy days, benefits we couldn’t have achieved before.”

In the west gallery and the tower, a PAC2M control system and infiNET gateway reside on the landing, while five single-button infiNET dimmers are located under the pews, and a four-button version is mounted on the rear wall of the church. Two compact infiNET tabletop controllers are housed in small, custom-built wooden boxes, so that during services they can be removed and handheld to adjust lights throughout the church from any location.

“It’s been really great. I’ve gotten a lot of comments about how well it performs,” said Wanless. “To have, for example, the “Preset” button is terrific, and it gets used quite often. And it was nice to be able to hide it all so completely—there’s no evidence of electrical conduits or wiring.”




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