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

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