Texas’s Oldest Tiffany Stained-Glass Windows Get a New Lease of Life

The windows were created just three years after the Tiffany Glass Company was founded.

Courtesy Stanton Studios.

The oldest Tiffany stained-glass windows in Texas, created in 1888, were recently restored to their home after a laborious cleaning and repair, as reported in Texas Monthly.

The First Presbyterian Church of Galveston opened in 1840, just one year into the life of the city, based in a flourishing of Gilded Age wealth. Sarah Catherine Perry Ball, a member of the committee overseeing a renovation of the church in 1888, is believed to have encountered Tiffany’s distinctive stained-glass windows on a visit to his New York studio that year, while she was traveling to the East Coast to escape Texas’s hot summers.

Three stained glass windows in a darkened church

Courtesy Stanton Studios.

There, she saw a Good Shepherd window with Tiffany’s innovative treatment of the subject, which had gained positive notices in no less a venue than the New York Times. Tiffany had quoted a price of $1,000 (about $33,000 today) to another potential patron, so it’s believed that was the price the church ponied up. 

Standing an imposing 15 feet high, one of the principal images shows a shepherd, one of the central metaphors for Christ, in a red robe, tending to two sheep and two lambs against a verdant background. Not only were these the first Tiffany windows the congregants had likely laid eyes on, they were among the earliest in Louis Comfort Tiffany’s glass-making career. The artisan had founded the Tiffany Glass Company just three years earlier, to create specific types of glass that allowed for the formal and technical innovations that would create visual effects that were distinct from more traditional stained-glass created by European craftsmen. 

Some 3,800 of his windows remain throughout the U.S. today; sadly, however, the Texas Monthly noted, countless Tiffany windows were trashed over years when they were perceived as old-fashioned and had fallen out of favor.

A stained glass window showing Christ in red robes holding two lambs, with two sheep at his feet

Courtesy Stanton Studios.

Despite the Galveston church’s initial glory, when a committee formed in 2006 to assess the conditions of the Tiffany windows and other ornaments, some of them were deemed “very distressed”—and that was even before Hurricane Ike arrived in 2008, capping more than a century of all manner of harsh weather in this city on the Gulf of Mexico, which is subject to flooding, humidity, and hurricanes.

The congregation called in Bryant Stanton and the company he founded, Stanton Studios in nearby Waco. The company’s 16-strong crew (including his own four sons) disassembled the windows, painstakingly photographed them, and laboriously scrubbed away a century of grit, while also removing remains of some earlier repairs. Stanton dropped out of college after falling in love with stained-glass when he happened upon a man creating windows in a shop some 45 years ago; he now has a national clientele.

A man works on repairing a stained glass window

Courtesy Stanton Studios.

Tiffany stained-glass, and work in this medium in general, is anything but out of favor today.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a historic Tiffany window last year and will install it in November. The public’s commitment to historic stained-glass was very much in evidence when a proposal to install contemporary stained-glass artworks in the side chapels of Notre-Dame in Paris sparked outrage. Revisionist stained-glass windows have taken root elsewhere, however: the Memphis-Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee recently acquired a one-of-a-kind stained-glass window depicting Jesus as a Black man.

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