Sunday, March 26, 2017

Latter-day Stained Glass: Part 8 – Destroying and Saving Historic 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.

 Certainly, the removal or replacement of stained glass is not limited to the LDS Church; historians have noted that in the past, even famous cathedrals and churches have had their original windows destroyed and replaced. The LDS Church tended to follow national trends in preservation, and this is reflected in its history with stained glass. This was also reflected in what would be the biggest threat to stained glass windows: when the buildings around them decayed and were in need of repair. Like other churches and organizations, the LDS Church struggled to balance preservation with modern architectural trends and financial realities. If historic chapels were not saved, difficult decisions had to be made regarding the fate of the stained glass. The result was a confusing array of decisions that has scattered the Church’s panels among a variety of locations and uses.

In some cases, the windows were demolished along with the building; this occurred with the Tooele North Ward:

Tooele North Ward (Image Source: Church History Library)

As we have noted in previous entries, the stained glass could be removed long before the building was threatened. The windows of the Salt Lake 29th Ward were removed 30 years before the building was sold; the building still stands, with cement filling in for the windows.

Salt Lake 29th Ward

The Park City Ward used to have a beautiful stained glass window which included the icon of a handshake; when the building was sold, the window was sold to a separate owner, and now its current location is unknown.

Park City Ward; now Blue Church Lodge

This is, most unfortunately, the case for many stained glass windows. When a time came for a remodel, some windows were removed because they were either deemed unnecessary or because they were in need of repairs that were considered unfeasible. No records were kept on what happened to the stained glass--was it thrown away? Did someone buy or take the stained glass and keep it in their personal storage? Without records, we don't know what has happened to windows such as those of the Clarkston Ward. The building still stands; the stained glass has been gone for quite a while.

Clarkston Ward at mid-century (Image Source: Church History Library)

Clarkston Ward

In many cases, when buildings were sold, the stained glass was sold right along with it. Stained glass in the Heber Second Ward, Logan Sixth Ward, Provo Fourth Ward, Washington D.C. Ward, and many other chapels are no longer in possession of the Church.

Logan Sixth Ward

Logan Sixth Ward Windows

The state of these windows largely depends on the new owner. The Ogden Sixth Ward still has its windows, but the building is in major disrepair, as are the windows. Several years ago, the plans were to remodel this building into a reception center. So far, no progress has been made.

Ogden Sixth Ward Windows

Strangely enough, in many cases, the Church would sell the building but keep the stained glass. moving it into other chapels. The Coalville Tabernacle, Salt Lake 17th Ward, Salt Lake 21st Ward, and many other buildings have stained glass that was saved and now stands in modern chapels. Why was the glass sometimes sold and sometimes kept? There was no firm policy on what to do with stained glass; as a result, there is no pattern. It's confusing and frustrating.

Coalville Stake Center, holding the stained glass from the original Coalville Tabernacle
Modern SLC Twenty-first Ward chapel, housing historic stained glass

The Richfield First Ward was sold to a local business owner, but there was confusion about who was to care for the window. This beautiful window has no protection (such as a clear pane that acts as a barrier), and some of its colored panels are held in place using packing tape. Based on my conversations, this isn't the fault of the current owner; it's the result of a confusing arrangement where it's not clear who is supposed to take care of the window. 

Richfield First Ward (Image Source: Google Maps)

In other cases where the glass is sold, the windows can be moved or modified. The windows in the Pleasant Grove Second Ward were purchased, along with the building, by the Heritage Academy. When the academy later moved to a newer building, they took the stained glass with them.

Pleasant Grove Second Ward (Image Source: Church History Library)

Similarly, the window in the Heber Second Ward is magnificent. The Catholic Church, after purchasing the window, carefully removed the center pane (which featured a sego lily) and gave it to the Heber City Government. They replaced it with a pane depicting the cross. The sego lily pane still hangs in city hall.

Heber Second Ward Window (Image Courtesy of Saint Lawrence Church)

Heber Second Ward Original Center Pane

In some cases, citizens have had to step forward to save these beautiful windows. When the Eighteenth Ward chapel was going to be razed, a local member, Chris Fonnesbeck, purchased the windows (including the stained glass window), pulpit, and steeple. He and his friends "carefully chiseled the large windows out of their frames". Meanwhile, his mother, LaRae Fonnesbeck, was able to help raise the funds to rebuild the chapel near the State Capitol Building as the White Chapel. The stained glass window remains there today.

White Chapel Interior

In some cases, the strong reaction from members is what saved a window from destruction. When members in Farmington, New Mexico were told during a chapel renovation that their stained glass was going to be removed, they reacted forcefully. The building department faced such an uprising from the members that they decided to leave the window.

Not every case is resolved; the future of some windows is uncertain. When the Manti North Ward was torn down, the building's large stained glass window was saved by a local heritage group. They carefully removed the panes, boxed them up, and stored them--and they remain in storage, until the group can find a future use for them.

Manti North Ward Windows; image courtesy of Shannon Miller
Next week: Modern Uses of Historic Stained Glass

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