Sunday, March 19, 2017

Latter-day Stained Glass: Part 7 - The Decline of 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.

One of the reasons that stained glass was so common in the 1920s was because of a different philosophy when it came to building LDS chapels. Richard Jackson, in his volume Places of Worship, notes that "...after [World War I], the buildings took on a grandiose style and were larger than their predecessors...Ward leaders as well as architects appeared to be trying to outdo each other in their designs. This imposed a hardship for the individual wards in two directions: the larger buildings cost more, and the fees for the plans were correspondingly higher" (175). Certainly, this led to some marvelous buildings, but the cost, the oncoming Great Depression, and other factors demanded a change in philosophy. While wise, this philosophy was not kind to stained glass.

The LeGrande Ward, built in 1914, is a beautiful example of the use of stained glass.
What were these factors? For one, the combining financial pressures, coupled with the onset of the Great Depression, greatly reduced a ward's ability to install fine stained glass in their chapels. Wards had to be much more frugal in the use of their funds. As a result, this blog's registry of stained glass dropped from 20 examples in the 1920s to only 6 in the 1930s.

The styles of stained glass during the 1930s still varied, but the effects of the depression become evident. One building that escaped the frugality that would set in later during the decade was the Ogden Fourth Ward. It is considered one of the finest buildings in the Church today, and recently was carefully preserved. Had this building been constructed even a few years later, it may not have looked this grand.

Ogden Fourth Ward

Ogden Fourth Ward Window

Another stellar example is the Washington D.C. Ward, although it may have been considered an exception because of its placement in the nation's capitol. Not only did the building have beautiful stained glass surrounding Mormon-centric themes; it also was capped by an Angel Moroni.

Washington D.C. Ward Windows (Image Source)

The Springville Fourth Ward was able to muster up enough funds to install some nice windows in their chapel, as well.

Springville Fourth Ward Chapel

Still, the trend is clear--stained glass windows became less common. The few examples we do have from the 1930s show a reduction in their use. The Pleasant Grove Second Ward, for example, met in a rather standard brick chapel, they purchased only two windows for their building--one to hang over the door, and another at the front of the chapel. The rest of the windows were plain, standard glass.

Pleasant Grove Second Ward, Transom Window

The Alhambra Ward in California was able to install a window of Christ, but that was after painstaking efforts on the part of the Young Women to raise enough funds for the window.

Alhambra Ward Window (Image Source)

The Whittier Ward purchased one set of windows to stand at the back of their chapel. Even the Casper Wyoming Ward was able to purchase one window for their chapel, depicting the Book of Mormon. These were the only stained glass windows to stand in their buildings, a contrast to earlier years, when stained glass could line the walls of the chapel.

Whittier Ward Windows

Still, in terms of stained glass, the end of the Great Depression (and World War II) did not see a return to the heights achieved in the early 1900s. This was partly because styles had changed; the boom of Gothic, Victorian, and Prairie styles was on the decline. This was also due to the growing use of standard plans. 

The creation of a Church Architectural Department first started in 1921. Its purpose was to help wards in obtaining buildings. The intent was to develop all meetinghouse plans in this department--Willard Young wrote that "the First Presidency has recently given instructions that the plans for all ward buildings to be erected in the future, shall, as far as possible, be prepared in this office..." (Jackson, Places of Worship, 176). This didn't happen at first--it was too large of a project to take on at once, but the department immediately began preparing different building plans for the Church. Originally, department employees did not develop standard plans for worldwide or nationwide use; they carefully developed specific plans they had made for a specific ward or stake. But by 1933, they were only making typical floor plans that other architects could use: "in this way a measure of control was exerted in limiting buildings to a specific size as well as as floor plan arrangement." (Jackson, 197). 

Local architects were nervous; the growth of standard plans could take away much of their work. Still, by 1946, a Church Building Committee was formed, mandating that new buildings stick to floor plans and sizes. This included the requirement "that the chapel had to overflow into the amusement hall and the amusement hall had to be of sufficient dimension that basketball could be played there" (Jackson, 215). By 1954, the Church Building Department started providing specific building plans; by 1959, it had reached full swing. With only a few exceptions, Mormon architecture was now standardized, and stained glass was not a part of it.

This didn't result in the end of stained glass, but it nearly did. Only 3 registry examples are from the 1940s. One was the San Bernardino Ward in California. Wards that were further away from Church headquarters were often able to find a bit more freedom in their floor plans, and the San Bernardino Ward, with its window of the First Vision, is one notable example.

San Bernardino Ward Window

The Provo Park Ward was able to put in a simple stained glass window at the front of their chapel, but other than that, it met most of the basic floor plan requirements.

Provo Park Ward

Provo Park Ward Window

The Bonneville Ward also is a fairly standard building, with a few unique features, including their stained glass window of Christ at the front of their chapel.

Bonneville Ward Window

In the 1950s, only a few windows were installed. The Wards in La Canada (California) and Farmington (New Mexico) were able to have windows installed, probably in part because of their distance from church headquarters. 

Farmington New Mexico Ward Window

The ward in Weston, Idaho also put in a stained glass window of Christ, mostly because of the desire of the local Bishop, Bishop Tingey. That stained glass window, although purchased at a huge discount, may have contributed to the arguments between the Bishop and other leaders. One leader "thought the Weston building was way too big and elaborate." Bishop Tingey refused to budge with the plans, saying, "I told him Weston wanted the building we had planned and felt very good about it. He asked Brother Anderson [the architect] why would Weston want that building, small town and so forth. Brother Anderson said maybe we would like to attract some tourists" (Jay D. Schvaneveldt, History of Weston, Idaho, 437-8). They got to keep their plans.

Weston Idaho Ward Building

Weston Idaho Ward Chapel

With these few exceptions in the 1950s, stained glass was mostly gone from LDS chapels. The one exception may be the Fairfield, California stake, which prepared a rose window arrangement of stained glass in anticipation of moving into another denomination's building. When the plans fell through, they were still allowed to hang their stained glass, which is much more modern in its style, at the front of the chapel.
Fairfield California Stake Window

Certainly, exceptions exist, and later examples of stained glass may be found in LDS meetinghouses. But by and large, stained glass had faded from Mormon architecture. The next question arose: what to do with the stained glass that was already there?

Next week: Destroying and Saving Historic Stained Glass

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