There are few more valuable and stunning pieces of art than Tiffany windows. However, all too often, church windows – while we acknowledge their beauty in a general way – are ignored, and viewed somewhat negatively as everyday objects.
Step into Plymouth Assembly Church, 2717 E Hampshire St—designed by Alexander Eichweiler as a replacement for the former house of worship designed by Edward Townsend Mix downtown—and you’ll likely find it hard to ignore the nine Tiffany Studios windows that decorate the sanctuary.
Other churches have windows made by Tiffany Studios in New York—such as St.
Best of all, it is located within a luxury Eschweiler building with a high-quality brand of brick masonry.
While Tiffany has always kept information on specific window designers and artists close to her jacket—as evidenced by the letter Tiffany sent to Plymouth in 1914—the largest and most eye-catching window designer appears to have been identified by experts.
The church sold the downtown building in 1912 and worshipers began worshiping in the barracks on the east side site until the new Eschweiler building was completed the following year.
Meanwhile, members of the congregation such as Mrs. O.W. Robertson, who lived on Lake Drive, began their efforts to secure the windows.
Although each window appears to have been funded, or at least partially funded, by different members of the church as a memorial or homage to loved ones, a 1914 letter from Tiffany and Tiffany Bills for at least one of the windows is addressed to Robertson.
And although the windows were built and installed in phases over a number of years, the plan appears to have been put in place from the start.
Read this message “You are correct in your understanding of the price of all lower windows”. “Amount of $800 each.” That’s about $21,000 today.
A large window is said to cost $3,000, or about $78,000 in today’s dollars.
As for the designers, the letter – signed “Tiffany Studios” – noted “It is against this company’s policy to give the names of the artists who implement our designs, but will say, FYI, that the designs for the windows at Plymouth Congregational Church were done by an artist working with these The company has been around for a good number of years, and it has all been designed under the personal supervision of Mr. Louis C. Tiffany.”
As it seems a given that the main window was designed by Clara Bird, the letter’s wording – “the window designs in the Plymouth Congregation Church were executed by an artist” – might suggest that she was responsible for all the windows, although this is not explicitly sincere.
Who was Clara Board?
Artist Clara Bird—along with others including Agnes Northrup who designed the 1917 Hartwell Memorial Window at the Art Institute of Chicago and Clara Driscoll and others—was one of the women known as the “Tiffany Girls,” the talented ones responsible for designing the stunning artworks in Glass (not only windows, but also lamps and other things).
Born in New York City in 1873, Bord studied at the National Academy of Design in New York before heading to Paris where she continued to study art at the Colarose Academy.
Upon her return to the United States, she began working for Tiffany, J&R Lamb Studios, and Church Glass and Decorating Company.
During her long career, Burd has also painted children’s books, magazine covers, and advertising cards, including products for Gridley Dairy in Milwaukee.
She told the Newark Evening News in 1915, “Not only do I know where the idea of working in stained glass came to me from, but it was only natural for me to take it because of my fondness for colour.” Create some Windows Plymouth.
“My first position was at Tiffany’s Studios. I went there one day to showcase some of my work and so the position opened up for me. I wasn’t there long before I had received the cost of the entire window department in a smaller interest and in time got in touch with another company.
“My opportunities for creative work were constantly increasing, but of course I was looking forward to owning my own studio. When this was possible and I was established in New York, I could receive and carry out my purchase orders.”
Bord explained that in addition to designing the windows, she painted the glass.
“I do almost all the work except cutting and driving glass,” she told the newspaper. “I strive in glass painting to implement the artistic perception of the face, figure and background. I came to the conclusion that glass painters, as a rule, were not sufficiently trained in this art, and my ambition was to master myself in it. ”
Burd also discussed her philosophy in stained glass with The Architectural Record in 1914, again, around the same time she was working on the Plymouth Panels.
“The window should belong to the architecture of the church, not the prominent feature of the edifice, and the color should be in harmony with the color scheme introduced into the decoration of the church,” she said.
“The stained-glass worker is more willing to disregard the architectural lines of a church in the design and placement of his window, and at times he is more interested in exploiting himself conspicuously than conforming to the style of architecture that already exists.”
The first four windows were installed on the north wall of the sanctuary in December 1914 and were consecrated at Mass on the Sunday just before Christmas.
“Mrs. O.W. Robertson wrote on the history of the biblical figures represented in the glass,” Sentinel wrote. Nelson B. Holst gave a speech in which he paid high esteem to Reverend Judson Titsworth, to whom one of the windows was dedicated.
“The other windows were for Royal Pearl Houghton, Lucy Millicent Houghton, Alfred C. Wright, Elephate Kramer and his wife Elekta Fay. The ceremony was closed by Reverend Theodore M. Shepherd.”
These windows depicted the “planter” in honor of Titsworth; “The Good Shepherd” ; Gethsemane; and “resurrection”.
The following October, two more windows were revealed on Sunday mornings. These two center windows on the south wall were in memory of Mrs. George C. Swallow and Reverend J.J. Mitri, the church’s first pastor.
These depict “Jesus in the Temple” and “the Nativity”.
The large ‘pink’ memorial window was then installed above the entrance and loft for the choir.
“The window, a large Tiffany art glass, was presented to the chapel by Mrs. C.W. Noyes in honor of her mother, Marcia Wells, wife of Daniel Wells, who built the Wells Building and named Wells Street,” the Guardian wrote in June 1917.
“The window represents the figure of an angel granting a prayer of peace. This is the seventh memorial window in Plymouth Church.”
In addition to funding this stunning Window Burd—with its beautiful angel, which, to me, reminds me of working at the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago—Noyes also provided money for congregants to build the gym building.
The next to arrive is the one closest to the altar on the south wall.
The window showing the “Annunciation” was installed in April 1918 to commemorate Dr. Sarah R. Munro. If you visit at the right time of day, the sun will illuminate the star making the subtler rays of light shine upon Bethlehem.
One can read between the lines of this ad on the Milwaukee Sentinel, which explains the relationship between pioneering physician Monroe and the woman who funded the window in her honor.
A beautiful memorial window, recently placed in Plymouth Congregational Church, the works of Tiffany Studios New York for Milwaukee recall the story of the semi-romantic friendship established many years ago between the window’s benefactor, Miss Emily F. Greenleaf, and Dr. Sarah R. Munro, who is honored in her memory. The two have been together for many years.
“Dr. Monroe died in 1914, and her friend who followed her in 1917 left a text in her will for this memorial window. Not only was Dr. Monroe a pioneer among female physicians, but during her long career in Milwaukee, she was actively interested in many humanitarian projects and for many years was a member of the The board of directors of the Wisconsin Home and Farm School, which trains the boys on his farm near Dusman.”
Interestingly, the last window in the set – “Jesus Blesses the Children” – will not be installed for another decade.
The magazine wrote that “Tiffany Favrell’s glass window given by Mrs. Nelson B. in November 1927.” A short memorial letter from Reverend Roscoe Graham, pastor of the church, would replace the usual sermon.
“The colors of the window are rich and harmonious. The statue of Christ in the central panel is dressed in a gown of soft rose and violet, while the figures in the outer panels are decorated in shades of blue and burgundy. The dominant colors of the landscapes that make up the background are varying shades of green, and on the left reflect the waters of The lake tones the sunset in the sky.”
The reason for such a delay is unclear, but this window is easy to pick out from the others because in the intervening decade, Tiffany’s color palette has changed and this window on the south wall closest to the rear of the church embraces an entirely different color scheme.
All but this last window are Tiffany’s signature.
The church’s website notes that “the set of autographed Tiffany windows, depicting episodes from the life of Jesus, is our greatest artistic treasure.” “When you look into the windows, please note the play of light, and the curtains of glass, and that all the features of the face, hands, and feet are painted.
“When you look at each window, with the wooden trim, you have the effect of looking through them at the ‘over there’ scene. And here, you can be at eye level with the windows to study them closely, even the larger ones on the balcony. The story begins in the southeast corner of The Sanctuary and moving clockwise around the Sanctuary.”