Albion churches are showcases of stained-glass masterpieces

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 December 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The stained-glass window tour on Saturday included a stop at the First United Methodist Church. The Good Shepherd window was created in the Tiffany style but not by Tiffany. The large window was gift to the congregation by the church’s pastor in 1914, the Rev. Henry Clay Woods.

ALBION – They drove through a storm to see works of art by famed masters of the craft.

Anne and Ed Engel of Oakfield weren’t disappointed on Saturday with the first ever stained-glass window tour of Albion’s seven churches in the historic Courthouse Square.

The Pullman Memorial Universalist Church has more than 40 windows created by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, perhaps the most esteemed stained glass artist.

Bill Lattin, Orleans County historian, talks about the Christ the Consoler window in the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church. The church in 1895 wanted a window with outstretched arms of Christ to fit the denomination’s welcoming tradition.

One of the windows of Christ the Consoler shows Jesus with his outstretched arms. George Pullman paid $5,000 for that window, which was installed in January 1895.

Tiffany highlighted that window as example of the firm’s work in an 1898 brochure.

Engel gazed at the glass, and ran her finger along the bottom of the window.

“I touched a Tiffany stained-glass window,” she said, breaking into a smile.

Tiffany revolutionized the stained-glass world. Stained-glass windows, prior to Tiffany, tended to have clear glass with a stencil pattern painted on the glass.

The Free Methodist Church in Albion was built in 1860, the first church in a denomination that now has more than 1,000 churches. The church still has the original stained-glass windows from the building. Those windows from 1860 were fairly plain compared to the style that emerged in the 1890s.

Tiffany developed opalescent glass, putting color directly in glass. His windows became very popular in the 1890s. His windows at the Pullman church were installed in 1895.

Other stained-glass artists turned to opalescent glass, and many churches, including several in Albion, swapped out their older, plainer windows with Tiffany-style windows, Lattin said on the tour. (Lattin wrote a book about Orleans County’s stained-glass windows: Luminaries in the Firmament.)

The windows in the seven churches range in age from the 1860s to the 1960s. Many of the masters of the craft, both at the regional and national level, created windows for churches in Albion.

Lattin concluded the tour of the seven churches inside St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which includes many narrative windows that depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments in the Bible. Leo Frohe, a popular stained-glass artist from Buffalo, designed and created many of the windows at St. Joseph’s. The Frohe studio also has several windows at the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Albion.

Lattin said Albion is blessed to have so many exquisite examples of stained glass.

“There is really some extraordinary artwork here,” Lattin said after leading the tour. “There is really something here that can be marketed.”

Saturday’s tour drew about 40 participants on a bitterly cold morning. Tony and Cathy Mancuso of Elba have driven through Albion for years. They have long admired the churches, and wondered what they were like inside.

They took lots of pictures of the windows, the pipe organs and architectural features. Mr. Mancuso works in the real estate business.

“This place is absolutely gorgeous,” Mancuso said while on a tour of the First Presbyterian Church. “I love the woodwork in here.”

Lattin stands in the Presbyterian Church by a window created by Henry Keck, an apprentice at the Tiffany studio until 1933, when he started his own company in Syarcuse. This is an early work by Keck, created in 1934 as memorial to Ella Beckwith Kenney, a Sunday School teacher at the Presbyterian Church. Lattin said it’s one of his favorite windows in Orleans because of theme and striking colors. It shows a teacher and her two students.

Connie Mosher is a long-time local resident and an artist. She praised Lattin for his recall of the dates of the windows, who made them, and the stories behind them often as memorials for local residents. Lattin led the nearly two-hour tour without notes.

Mosher said the tour was an eye-opener and made her admire the community’s residents from a century ago even more. The seven churches showcase a variety of architectural features. The buildings are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The churches have added meaning after learning about their windows, Mosher said.

“What a heritage we have,” she said. “Until you get inside, you don’t realize the richness of it.”

Tony Mancuso of Elba took a lot of photos on the stained-glass window tour. He is shown inside the sanctuary at Christ (Episcopal) Church.

Many of the stained-glass windows, including this one in the First Baptist Church, were paid for as memorials to prominent Albion residents.