Artist: Louis Comfort Tiffany
Created: 1930s, restored 2004
Material: Leaded stained glass
Permanently installed at the Westover Branch Library in 2010.
Watch the windows being installed:
Many thanks to Cultural Affairs’ Public Art Program for helping the Library to procure the windows, as well as the previously installed granite finial. We hope that our patrons will enjoy seeing them!
Three other Tiffany windows rescued from the Abbey Mausoleum were installed at the Arlington Art Center in 2004. From an Arlington County press release:
It was the type of discovery that makes an historian’s heart quicken. Three years ago, Arlington County staff rescued 13 stained glass windows from the Abbey Mausoleum, slated for demolition.
Upon closer examination, Cultural Affairs Division and the Historic Preservation Program staff discovered a signature pane on one of the windows that read “Louis C. Tiffany, NY” which appears to be authentic, based upon typical examples Tiffany’s signature from the period and consultation with several stained glass experts.
Today, three windows have been restored to their original beauty and installed at the Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd.
Twelve of the 13 original mausoleum’s windows had a simple geometric/floral composition. The 13th and largest window is religious themed, portraying Christ extending his hand in benediction. It is this window which contains the signature pane, which confirms, at minimum, this panel’s authenticity to the degree possible absent written documentation of the commission.
The window is dedicated to E. St. Clair Thompson, a wealthy Mason who was interred at the Abbey Mausoleum in 1933, and likely commissioned by his family, possibly with the rest of the geometric windows, in memoriam. The panel (as well as all the windows when originally removed from the Mausoleum in 2001) is severely damaged from years of vandalism and neglect and in storage until an appropriate mode of deaccessioning it may be determined.
The restoration and expansion of the historic Maury School for the Arlington Arts Center provided the windows with a new home. Three geometric windows were selected for restoration and installation at the Center and were successfully repaired with the use of matching glass fragments from the other Mausoleum windows that were damaged beyond repair. The windows now appear much as they did when they were first installed at the Abbey Mausoleum decades ago.
About Abbey Mausoleum
Built on a hillside overlooking Arlington Cemetery and the Potomac River in 1924, the Abbey Mausoleum was once a grand final resting-place for Washington, DC’s elite. The mausoleum, built by the United States Mausoleum Company from 1924 to 1926, was an impressive Romanesque style structure that neighbored Arlington National Cemetery and in 1942 was included within the grounds of Henderson Hall, the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters.
With its granite exterior, marble interior, and stained glass windows, the building was said to have resembled a cathedral. With the bankruptcy of the managing Abbey Mausoleum Corporation in the 1950s, the building fell victim to vandalism and neglect.
In 2000, the U.S. Navy gained ownership of the site, which it wished to redevelop. Based upon the mausoleum’s poor condition, the Navy decided to tear it down. They then assumed the enormous task of contacting the families of those interred at the mausoleum in order to relocate remains, a process which took several years. Arlington County was given the opportunity to salvage architectural features from the historic building, including the Tiffany windows.
Learn more from Arlington Public Art.
David Shurtz says
From reading the various articles on the internet, the only stained glass window that had the signature of Louis Comfort Tiffany was the one grand Jesus in benediction which was never restored. Thus, there is no substanial proof to conclude that the otherwise very attractive other windows were of Tiffany’s Creation or design. I know that Arlington County likes to pat itself on the back but they would really get Kudos if they restored the Jesus stained glass window. So, what happened to the remains of this Jesus window? It seems to me that someone should be accountable for the remains of that stained glass window as that would be very valuable today!
Arlington Public Art says
Thank you for your comment, David. You are correct that the only window with Tiffany’s signature is the “Jesus window.”
As we state in our description of the windows and their restoration, “The 13th and largest window is religious themed, portraying Christ extending his hand in benediction. It is this window which contains the signature pane, which confirms, at minimum, this panel’s authenticity to the degree possible absent written documentation of the commission.” However, in our research we also discovered that it was not unusual for only one window in a commission of several by Tiffany to be signed.
The “Jesus window” is being kept safely in storage. It is a significant asset, and we are still working to find an organization that can appropriately restore, display, and maintain it, as its religious nature makes it inappropriate for a County facility.