** Guest blog post by Chris Clemens, detailing the amazing treasure of having a plethora of Tiffany stained glass windows in Western NY!**
Chris Clemens is Rochester resident, born and raised. He is one half of the duo responsible for the former Exploring The Burned Over District blog about visiting unique and historical sacred sites of all faiths in Upstate New York. He is also the creator of the Exploring Upstate blog and is a contributor to Atlas Obscura as well as a good friend…
The use of stained glass can be traced backed to Roman times and was considered a high class luxury. It wasn’t until the 12th Century Romanesque architectural movement that stained glass began to be used in religious houses of worship to depict scenes and stories from the Bible. Through the Gothic and Renaissance periods its practice would rise in popularity and stained glass could be found in most Eastern and Western Christian architectural designs.
Born on February 18, 1848 in New York, Louis Comfort Tiffany would later go on to be known as one of the most prolific artists and household names in American history. Though he began as a painter, he would become known in particular for his ground-breaking stained glass methods that he honed after founding the Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated American Artists studio in 1879. The Tiffany name has become so well known for stained glass, that it is often used erroneously just to describe stained glass in general. In the beginning stages of his career, the coming of age artist actually became so well known as an interior decorator that the 21st President of the United States, Chester Alan Arthur, refused to move in to the White House before it could be redecorated by none other than Tiffany himself. While designing rooms was something he commonly did, it was his groundbreaking stained glass creations that would ultimately move Tiffany to celebrity status.
Rochester, NY and the surrounding areas have a number of noteworthy pieces of architecture and many of them have the honor of displaying some incredible Tiffany stained glass. While known for only using paint on windows to provide the intricate details of feet, hands or faces, Tiffany’s signature style includes hammered glass, drapery glass, turtle-back glass and others. Here’s a roundup of all of the Tiffany glass windows in the city along with a couple special mentions from the surrounding areas.
The gallery owns two regularly displayed Tiffany windows, and offers a little bit of information on their website for each. While not originally made to be housed at MAG, one was created in 1915, the other was created in 1882, making it the oldest Tiffany window that currently exists on public display in the area.
The home that was built at 1050 East Ave was originally built by Wilson Soule for he and his wife, though his wife sold it after he befell an untimely death due to an accident with a horse. Mrs. Soule rid herself of the home to a young and new-to-Rochester George Eastman, where he lived while building his own home up the street. Since the mid-1900’s it has been owned and cared for by the First Asbury United Methodist Church. There are a couple small windows in a front room of the home that some have claimed to be Tiffany. I can neither confirm nor deny their authenticity, and while I wasn’t able to acquire photos to share, I’ve seen them in person and they’re pretty cool! Additionally, the home has an incredible teak carved room and gold leaf wallpaper throughout!
The “Te Deum” window is in the North transept of Christ Church. While it’s a bit too high to see up closely, from the ground this window is absolutely gorgeous. You can read a little more about the window on their website here.
There are a number of stained glass windows in St. Paul’s created by a few different artists, one of which is often thought to be a Tiffany and is not (many believe it is a LaFarge.) Luckily, there is an exquisite example of both drapery glass and how Tiffany used double-panes to create both new colors and to create the visual effect of three dimensional horizons. Checkout how the people toward the bottom seem closer, and the ones higher up appear to be further in the distance. This window is low enough to the ground that you get to see some of Tiffany’s work up close!
While not perfectly accessible to the public, the chapel within the Senior Life Community proudly displays three really beautiful and large Tiffany windows in their historic chapel. Many thanks to the staff at ‘The Church Home’ who arranged to allow me in to see these windows and take photos, especially since the chapel was under construction at the time!
Just up the street from a few others on the list, Third Presbyterian Church celebrates a long and important Christian history, in addition to an incredible stained glass window collection. Some hard working volunteers have even created posters and educational materials to teach visitors about the windows. When there are tours of stained glass in the Rochester area, Third Presbyterian is almost always on the list of stops.
With an 18′ diameter rose window and two smaller rose windows, St. Mary’s is home to a fantastic example of turtle back glass and actually is one of the few places that you can see Tiffany’s signature in a window! The colors in this one are simply awe-inspiring! The volunteers of St. Mary’s have done a fantastic job documenting the history of all of the windows in the church and have written a book that is available. Checkout their website to purchase, or to contact them for a tour.
While the years above are simply a best guess, there isn’t a ton of documentation available on these windows. What is definite, is that this collection is one of the larger in the city and most definitely worth a look!
While this church has a number of stained glass windows by multiple artists, one Tiffany exists in the center of the South wall in the sanctuary. Unfortunately, there isn’t much documentation on this one either, but it’s absolutely beautiful!
When I called the interfaith office for the hospital for more information on this memorial window, I was told there wasn’t a window in the chapel and that no one wanted to answer any questions about it. However, there is indeed a Tiffany window in the chapel, and it’s one of the few that you can get up close to and see. Installed in an unknown year, this window is a memorial to a former board member for the hospital, and pays tribute to Isabella Graham Hart. You can read a little more about her on their website here. Next time you’re in the hospital, head over to the chapel and take a rare opportunity to see an exquisite example of Tiffany’s work up close.
The Tiffany window that shines above the altar in St. Andrews is somewhat unknown. While it’s high off the ground, when the sun is shining through nearly every inch and color washes the sanctuary with its reverent beauty.
If you’ve traveled around Rochester and managed to see all of the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass and still want more, there are a few honorable mentions within a short drive that I wanted to include here as well. These are not to be missed…
When George Pullman built the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church in honor of his parents, he went all out on nearly every aspect of the design. Claiming one of the largest collections of Tiffany stained glass in Upstate New York, there are 56 windows total for you to oogle on your visit. Former Orleans County historian Bill Lattin gives stained glass window tours in Albion every so often, and Pullman is always a favorite stop.
Though the Willard Memorial Chapel isn’t in Rochester, it’s quite worth the one hour drive to Auburn. Entirely designed floor to ceiling by Tiffany, the chapel has examples of mosaic work, hammered glass, turtle-back glass and even lamp work. While a Seventh Day Adventist group bought it years ago and tried to make it a bit more ‘plain’ to fit their worship beliefs, the paint they used to cover the stenciling on the organ pipes has started to wear off and Tiffany’s painted filigree peeks out here and there. The chapel is regularly open to the public for tours and is totally worth a visit.
While it’s not entirely accessible to the public, and actually not even a window, the tile mosaic is one of the few that Tiffany created that is on display in Upstate New York. If you get a chance to see this one in person you most certainly should seize the opportunity!
The Garrett Memorial Chapel is also a bit of a drive from Rochester, but the picturesque site of the grounds with Keuka Lake in the distance is worth the drive alone. The chapel was built by a winemaker who originally owned the property in memory of his son who passed away much too soon. While the chapel is to serve as a memorial for the Garrett family, it also serves as their final resting place. Underneath the sanctuary of the chapel is an open tomb where each of the Garret’s lay enclosed in granite tombs while red and blue hues wash over them through the Tiffany windows facing the lake. The chapel is open very limited hours, so be sure to check the website before you make the drive.