in Florida
by Martin May

Tiffany Window
Seven foot tall Gothic landscape window. Note the use of Favrile Glass to connote the setting sun in the sky and its reflection in the lake. Tiffancy studios routinely used indigenous birch trees in its landscape windows commissioned
for placement in the northeastern
United States. From the Lake Placid Club. Signed, lower right, Louis C. Tiffany, N.Y. 84" x 43"
The turn of the twentieth century saw a resurgence in the production of stained glass art windows. Whether this change was a manifestation of the enormity of new church construction then underway, or a reflection of the art of the times, it was met by several American artisans. Foremost among these were the Tiffany Studios of New York.
Louis Comfort Tiffany, best remembered today for his mosaic glass lamps, probably had his finest hour as a maker of stained glass windows. This art form, first used and best represented by the famous cathedral windows in Europe, was initially an item almost exclusively imported into the United States.
By the last half of the nineteenth century, American innovators such as John LaFarge and Louis Comfort Tiffany made window ornamentation and “modern” glass making a decidedly American art form. Their artistic and creative use of glass, based on nouveau principles representing naturalistic floral, landscape and figural works, answered the need and, indeed, accelerated the acceptance of stained glass windows as an art form. They were incorporated into not only new church buildings, but homes (even the White House), public buildings (The Seventh Regiment Armory, New York), as well as Mausoleums and Memorial Chapels.
Louis Comfort Tiffany, the wealthy descendent and heir of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Company, built a mansion for himself on Long Island. Named Laurelton Hall, it incorporated many of his most ambitious window works. Some of these had been exhibited at various worlds fairs and exhibitions throughout the globe. These designs helped Tiffany Studios attain worldwide acclaim and were used to market Tiffany Studios as a design and manufacturing concern for stained glass window commissions. This production lasted many years until the termination of Tiffany Studios in 1938 (following bankruptcy in 1932).

One of the last major commissions for Tiffany Studios was the fabrication and installation of eleven windows at the Lake Placid Club Chapel in Lake Placid, New York. The Chapel was built in memory of Annie Dewey, wife of Melvil Dewey. He was best known as the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System and founder of the Lake Placid Club. The Chapel was constructed in 1923 and the last of the windows were installed in 1927.

During this time, Melvil Dewey was wintering in Sebring, Florida, where he attempted to create another Lake Placid Club, even having Lake Childs renamed Lake Placid by the Florida legislature. The town of Lake Stearns had a similar fate and is still known today as Lake Placid, Florida. Unfortunately, the Depression of the 1930s, lack of funding and the death of Melvil Dewey in December, 1931, (thirteen months before that of Louis Tiffany), doomed the project.

"Sower" window from the Lake Placid Club, N.Y., circa 1923. The use of mottled glass gives the impression of fallen seeds on the ground while the use of rolled glass suggests the falling seeds. Similar glass was employed to suggest falling water in the "Feeding The Flamingos" window currently in the Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida. 64" x 34"

As far as the Lake Placid Club of New York, it too succumbed shortly after the city of Lake Placid hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Lake Placid Club was sold as a time share. This project failed and in the early 1980s the club and company were in receivership. Tiffany's eleven stained glass windows were professionally removed from the Chapel, crated and stored in response to several fires on the property. These windows have recently resurfaced and are now privately owned. We are privileged to picture three of them here. For the first time in twenty years, they see the light of day.

Fortunately, most of the windows Louis Tiffany used in his own home were likewise saved from further neglect and vandalism. Due to foresight, generosity and the civic mindedness of Jeanette and Hugh McKean of Winter Park, Florida, these treasures are on permanent view at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida. The Museum is open to the public. Other Tiffany windows are viewable by the public in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, New York, The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York and the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.
The timeless beauty and innovative techniques of one of America’s unique artists, working in one of America’s unique art forms, can be appreciated by us today much as it was one hundred years ago. And fortunately, their place in the cultural heritage of Florida is assured.

About the author:
Dr. May is an avid collector of Victorian antiques and regularly authors articles for Antiques & Art Around Florida. His book on Victorian Decor in America is anticipated in the Spring of 2001.

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