Stained glass dazzles local historians

Whether patterns of Greek goddesses, overflowing cornucopias or the harmony symbolizing yin and yang, the variety of subjects captured in stained glass knows no bounds — even within a single residence.

Such is the case in the 118-year-old Ogden Mansion, formerly called the Shakespeare Chateau, located at 809 Hall St. in St.Joseph.

Filling the rooms of the three-story structure with color, the 43 stained-glass windows in the house teach a lesson in art, architecture and, most importantly, history.

“The Victorians were eclectic people,” said Kellie Ritchie, current owner of the former bed-and-breakfast. “It wasn’t odd to see art from all sorts of different cultures in a Victorian mansion. It was a way for them to say, ‘We are wealthy, we are well-educated and we are well-traveled.”

Prompting visits from hundreds of tourists each year, the windows within the mansion and dozens of others like it also have piqued the interest of local historians with the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development. Since June, the department has toured homes, churches and businesses throughout St. Joseph for the purpose of identifying as many original windows as possible.

Running through August, the project is an important step in recognizing the significance of one of the city’s most valuable commodities, said Robert Myers, historic preservation planner for the city.

“It’s a very important element of St. Joseph architecture that people don’t realize exists. Other cities don’t have a fraction of what we have,” Mr. Myers said. “How do you manage a resource of stained glass windows if you don’t know what you have?”

Mr. Myers said stained and art glass is abundant throughout the city, but windows are continually lost to demolition, vandalism and sale to other areas. However, results of the survey, which consists of color and slide photographs taken of each window as well as historical research, may be used to further promote St. Joseph tourism through calendars, books and brochures.

Spearheading the project, Chris Lambing, a historic preservation consultant for the city, has toured 15 properties so far, gathering more than 200 slides of stained-glass art. Not limited to religious designs usually recognized within churches, Mr. Lambing has recognized numerous secular pieces in homes, including scenes from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

600450 Stained glass dazzles local historians
Date: 29 July 2003

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