Sunday, February 26, 2017

Latter-day Stained Glass: Part 4 - The Peak of LDS Stained Glass

Note: This is a part of a series on the history of the use of stained glass in LDS meetinghouses. To see a full list of the posts in this series, click here.

After the turn of the century, conditions were the best they'd be for the use of stained glass in LDS chapels. A modified gothic style of architecture was popular in Latter-day Saint buildings, and this often called for stained glass. The transportation of glass was no longer an issue, and the Church has a whole was now wealthier and could afford to add colored windows to its buildings. No standard plans were used; local wards were free to add stained glass to their buildings as desired.

In examining a registry of stained glass that has known details about the date of installation, only a handful of examples were present before 1900. Between 1900 and 1910, there are 16 registries; that grew to 18 in the 1910s and 20 in the 1920s. Stained glass was not booming quite like it ever would in Europe or the eastern United States, but in Latter-day Saint history, it was quickly reaching its peak.

One of the earliest examples is the Salt Lake 27th Ward, built in 1902. It's Gothic style called for arched windows; the stained glass was an essential part of the building as a whole.

Salt Lake 27th Ward Window

That was the case for many of the windows--they were integral to the design; they were not added as an afterthought. Still, not all wards were as wealthy, and so the level of design seen in the stained glass varied from building to building, depending on the ward's ability to pay, as well as the building's design. The Sugarhouse Ward, for example, has windows of simple colored glass, one of the less expensive options. Their design fits the building very well.

Main window, Sugarhouse Ward

Some wards could afford a bit more, but not much. The Springville Second Ward's arched windows had simple patterns that filtered the sunlight coming in.

Springville Second Ward Window

The Forest Dale Ward has many windows with very simple patterns and symbols against largely clear and opaque glass.

Forest Dale Ward Windows

And the Salt Lake 20th Ward originally only had small, colored panels--about a few square inches each--on their doors, and a few simple, half-moon panes in the chapel. It was likely a lack of funds that led to such measured panes.

Door Panel, Salt Lake 20th Ward

Other wards, however, would procure more complex patterns that added a heightened sense of dignity and reverence to their buildings. The Garland Tabernacle has multiple panes of beautiful, brightly colored stained glass on three sides of their building.

Transom Window, Garland Tabernacle

 The Malad City Ward also purchased stained glass for three of the walls; this included one large pane that runs from the ceiling (by the balcony) down to the floor. The larger the pane, the more complex the process of putting together (and transporting) the stained glass.

Main Window, Malad City Tabernacle

Stained glass in the Great Basin was usually made by Bennett Paint and Glass, the largest company of the industry in Utah. Their work can be seen in the vast majority of chapels with stained glass. Their expertise did not always make the job of transportation easier; one of their employees recalled hauling a window of the First Vision, destined to stand in the Brigham City Third Ward chapel, from Salt Lake City up north in a frigid truck which had no windshield.

Chapel Interior, Brigham City Third Ward

The company continued to grow along with the popularity of stained glass. Saints were building Victorian and Gothic chapels across the Mormon corridor, many of which called for stained glass. In the 1910s, the Prairie style of meetinghouses began to grow in popularity. This distinctly American type of architecture called for flat or low-pitched roofs, strong horizontal lines, and more often than not, rectangular stained glass windows that added to the horizontal emphasis. The Brigham City Fifth and Tenth Ward is one such example; the Salt Lake Eight Ward is another. Both have stained glass.

Brigham City 5th & 10th Ward Chapel

Brigham City 5th & 10th Ward Window

Salt Lake Eighth Ward

Salt Lake Eighth Ward Window

The combination of these styles during these few decades mean that a variety of stained glass windows from this period can be found, each with different styles and beauty. More ornate and intricate patterns were formed; the best example is probably found in the Kaysville Tabernacle, with its beautifully designed windows.

Kaysville Tabernacle Windows

Main Window, Kaysville Tabernacle

If the ward could afford it, icons could be placed into the stained glass. These icons could be Mormon-centric or have general meaning in Christianity. The Beehive is a common--if not the most common--icon in Mormon windows. The Sego Lily is another common one.

Liberty Ward Window

Lehi Fourth Ward Window

Other symbols were used. Books, wheat, lamps, or Greek letters were general Christian icons that also made their way into Mormon windows.

Salt Lake Twenty-first Ward Window

Salt Lake Twenty-first Ward Window

Of course, stained glass really reached its peak in beauty and detail if the ward could order a larger window that depicted a scene. A common Mormon-centric depiction was the First Vision; more general ones included Christ: knocking at the door, beckoning "Come Unto Me," standing as the Good Shepherd, or teaching His disciples.

Salt Lake Tenth Ward Window

Murray First Ward Window

Millcreek Ward Window

Salt Lake 12th & 13th Wards Window

These windows were as meaningful to the Saints then as they are to us now. The story is often told of the Salt Lake Tenth Ward, which experienced a fire in 1927. The Bishop of the Ward, Thomas B. Child, lived close to the chapel and showed up just before the fire department. When the firemen prepared to knock out the main stained glass window, Bishop Child "picked up a two-by-four and said that he would beat anybody who touched those windows and if they wanted the building ventilated they should get up on the roof and cut all the holes they wanted. They were not about to argue with the most prominent and husky brick masonry contractor in the Salt Lake Valley. They cut their vent holes in the roof, and the windows were saved. Bishop Child was heard telling the story many times. He was very fond of the building and took great pride in the stained glass windows" (Richard Jackson, Places of Worship, 141).

Salt Lake Tenth Ward Balcony & Window

After the 1920s, the Great Depression would greatly limit the ability of many wards to purchase stained glass windows. Other forces would then come into play, and stained glass would never quite reach the popularity that it did during the first three decades of the 1900s. It was the peak of stained glass, and most famous buildings that members know of came from this period. This gives us the opportunity to examine these windows and see how they compared to windows from other American religion during this time period.

Next week: Common Christian Traits of Mormon Stained Glass

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Montpelier Stake Tabernacle

The Montpelier Stake Tabernacle was built in 1918. It follows an Art Deco style, and is one of the most unique buildings in the Church.

(Image Source: Church History Library)

The building has been wonderfully preserved, including a huge project from 2013-15 where it was carefully restored (which earned a preservation award).

The building was closed, but here are some good views of the interior. The building is shaped like a semi-circle, with the curved pews radiating out from the center. Here is an image from the recent restoration:

And here are some images from the Church History Library. As you can tell, it really was a well-done preservation project.

(Image Source: Church History Library)

(Image Source: Church History Library)

(Image Source: Church History Library)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Preservation Update: St. George Tabernacle Renovation Continues, Tithing Office Threatened?

Note: Preservation Updates are a regularly occurring series of posts where I round up recent information on historic LDS buildings and their futures. Depending on the age of the post, there may be newer information available. Click here to see all Preservation Updates.

The St. George Tabernacle has been closed for about 9 months, now, and its careful renovation continues. As I noted in the last post about this, there won't be many major visual or aesthetic changes that come to the building as a result of the renovation; its main purpose is to retrofit the tabernacle so that it can continue to serve future generations. The columns will have steel inserted, cracked areas of wood will be repaired, and the roof is being redone. Good article on the renovation can be found here and here.

(Image Source: Church History Museum)
Even better, the Church History Museum has set up an online exhibit that goes through the history of the tabernacle.

This renovation continues an encouraging trend where the Church is carefully and lovingly preserving some of our best tabernacles, including the Ogden Tabernacle (2010), Blanding Tabernacle (2014), Montpelier Tabernacle (2015), and Manti Tabernacle (2015).


Is the Lakeview Tithing Office in trouble? Maybe; maybe not. Built in 1899, the building (also known as the Bunnell Creamery) was owned by the same organization that owns Bunnell Farms.

The problem is that the Daily Herald is reporting that the Provo City School District purchased 11 acres from Bunnell Farms, to be used for a future elementary school.

The real question is, did the sale include the building? If it did, I'm not very optimistic about the building's future. It all depends on what land was sold. I'm not sure what the boundaries of Bunnell Farms are, but if they're the ones I mapped out below, that's roughly 22 acres--half of what was sold.

Hopefully I can find out more information about this in the future. I really hope this building won't be threatened by this sale.


The Parowan Tabernacle turned 150 in January. While no longer owned by the Church, it has been carefully preserved by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers organization. I'm glad to see it treated so well! If you're looking for a good article on the anniversary, check one out here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Latter-day Stained Glass: Part 3 - In Memoriam, In Glass: Donations of Stained Glass Windows

Note: This is a part of a series on the history of the use of stained glass in LDS meetinghouses. To see a full list of the posts in this series, click here.

Stained glass is not cheap today; it was particularly not cheap to members struggling to build up the Church at the turn of the century. One of the reasons stained glass arrived so late to the fledgling Mormon Church was because of the cost--not just the cost of ordering the glass itself, but also of having it shipped to Utah. This certainly became cheaper once the railroad arrived, but it was still expensive.

One of the most common ways stained glass was introduced into wards was through generous donors who could afford to purchase the windows. The Twenty-ninth ward residents may not have been able to raise money for such colorful windows, but the Bishop of the ward, Theodore McKean, donated three windows to grace the front of the building.

Similarly, Annie D. Watkins donated the funds to the Salt Lake 17th Ward to purchase the large, gothic window depicting the First Vision.

If donors were unable to provide a window for a chapel when it was built, chances would come in later years during remodels and renovations. The 18th Ward originally had no window in its building; when a remodel was done several years later, John T. Caine arranged for a beautiful stained glass window he donated to be installed in the chapel. The 18th Ward was later taken down and rebuilt close to the State Capitol, but the window he installed continues to grace the chapel interior.

(Image Source: Church History Library)
Even in later years, donors would step up and provide the funds needed to purchase a window. The Bonneville Ward's beautiful window, depicting Christ in Gethsemane, was donated by local members Junius and Margaret Jackson.

That is not to say that local members alone could provide the funds needed. Mrs. A.W. McCune, a resident of Salt Lake City, donated a stained glass window of Joseph Smith receiving the plates to the Ocean Park (now Santa Monica) Ward in California. How often Mrs. McCune was able to visit and enjoy the window she donated is unknown; local members were certainly appreciative. [This image is of a copy of the original window, and is a poor quality image. If I get the chance to visit the chapel and document it, I will be sure to update this post.]

Of course, this is not to say that all windows were donated by wealthy members; when no donor could be found, local ward members often provided the funds themselves. The Alhambra, California Ward had a circular window of frosted glass at the front of their chapel. A local member later recounted that in 1938, the Young Women's leader gathered the girls together and asked, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a stained glass window up there that had a picture of the Savior? Wouldn't you girls like to earn the money? Let's raise the money."

The Young Women responded by selling Christmas cards, donuts, cupcakes, and other items. They were able to raise enough funds to have a local designer put in a beautiful stained glass window showing Christ knocking at the door. It still stands there today, and the girls' efforts made the window even more meaningful. One of them recounted her feelings: " 6 o'clock, we had Sacrament Meeting at night. And when the sun would go down behind that window, it would just glisten--the Savior stood out there and that door."

(Image Source: Zion Eggs; Instagram)

But even donors appreciated the meaning that stained glass windows could bring for them and for others. Mary Jane Gardner Miller and Margaret Gardner Miller helped donate the window of Christ to the Murray First Ward, in memory of their husbands. Donor names were listed on the bottom of the window.

One window was not enough for Mary Jane; a few years later, she saw a window of Christ as the Good Shepherd and was so moved by the depiction that she donated it to the Millcreek Ward. When she passed away, the Bishop spoke of how much the window meant to her, and quoted the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. Because of her donation, Mary Jane's emotions, story, and generosity are captured in beautiful, colored stained glass that now provide beauty and comfort to local members in Millcreek, Utah; a century later.

Next Week: The Peak of LDS Stained Glass