I have a small, but interesting, collection of antique stained glass which I have collected over the last thirty years. Although amounting to only seven pieces (five windows, a chandelier and a lamp), the collection is eclectic and each piece has a history. For example, as I will explain, the chandelier and one window go together even though they were bought about 25 years apart.
Just like my earlier post on the decay of post offices, railroad stations and light houses (see Going Postal), antique American stained glass suffers from neglect, urban renewal (or urban removal, as I call it) and changing modern tastes. The mid-20th century modernistic movement was a direct attack on all things ornate – whether Victorian, Art Deco or Art Nouveau. As a result, many wonderful pieces of antique stained glass found their way to the garbage heap. Fortunately, pickers, collectors and preservers managed to keep others from destruction.
One of the first pieces I collected came from the aptly named Thieves Market in Alexandria, Virginia. The entranceway greeter was an old fortune teller machine and the rest of the “market” was a labyrinthine maze of dead ends and rabbit holes. When Thieves Market closed for business, they sold the stained glass hanging above their auction floor, among them two pieces from a Victorian house dating from the late 19th century in Northeast Washington, DC. I did snag the back door transom (shown) but passed on the accompanying front door transom because it said “704” and I never lived at a residence numbered 704.
The next piece (actually a set of windows) came from an antique dealer from Ohio who dealt mainly in jewelry, She bought the matched windows as a present for her daughter but the windows did not fit in her daughter’s house (fortunately for me).
Here is some of the detail from one of the windows:
The dealer said the windows were from a house in Cincinnati in the early 20th century and mentioned Third Street Studios. Thanks to Wooden Nickel Antiques in Cincinnati, Ohio, I found out that Third Street Studios is not the name of a single glass studio but a name coined in the 1980’s by a dealer for stained glass makers from the Third Street area of Cincinnati dating to the late 19th and early 20th century. The matched set was originally placed as a hinged set in the dining room of an elaborate house at the turn of the 20th century. The hinges and locks have been removed but you can still see where they existed. You can find more on Third Street Studios in Cincinnati Magazine May 2002 starting on page 80.
(to be continued…)