Stained glass depicts Penncrest history

Date: 10 February 2004
A strikingly beautiful stained-glass window, portraying the history of Penncrest High School, was unveiled Thursday in the school library.

The commemorative creation in stained glass, measuring about four-feet-square, celebrates school history, traditions and culture by depicting the history of the land on which the school building was developed.It is an amazing, colorful work of art that illustrates Penncrest’s rich heritage in amazing detail.

In remarks at the unveiling ceremony, Penncrest Principal Thomas Sebastian noted the Five Angels Fund provided the money for the window, as well as the inspiration for its inscription: "May the light from above shine through our students as it shines through this glass today."

The Five Angels Fund was established to honor the memory of five female Penncrest students who lost their lives in an automobile accident several years ago.

The stained-glass work was designed and crafted by Richard Green of Middletown, who graduated from Penncrest as an art major in 1975 and was on hand for the dedication ceremony.

In addition to an art background that includes glass blowing, wood burning, jewelry making and stained glass, Green also has an archeological background. For more than 22 years, he’s worked for Mid-Atlantic Archeological Research Associates, delving into the past for contracts with engineering firms and the federal government.

As an archeologist and Penncrest alum, researching the history of the school property through old deeds and other resources was "a natural" for Green. As an artist, translating his research into a lasting work of art also was a natural extension of his expertise.

In designing the stained-glass piece, Green wanted it to capture the vision of Dr. Joseph Haviland. A number of years ago, the former Penncrest principal conceived the idea of a work of art that would perpetuate the school’s long-standing traditions while promoting art and cultural awareness.

For the central elements, Green chose a circular time-line to highlight four centuries of the property’s history -- from 1600, when it was a 150-acre William Penn land grant, to the year 2000.

The central space within the circular time-line is divided into four sections. Each section shows an image representing some aspect of the land. For instance, the top section illustrates its earliest history. Two arrowheads crown a design inspired by incised Native American pottery from the region. It’s possible that the Okehockings of the Lenape tribe traversed the land, since it’s near the site of Blackhawk Spring.

Below the pottery motif are symbols of the property’s agricultural past. Known as the Balderson Tract, it was farmed for many years by the Smedley family. In 1954, 40 acres of the tract were purchased by the Central Delaware County School District -- comprised of Middletown, Upper Providence and Edgmont townships -- as the site of a junior-senior high school. The school opened in 1956.

The left quadrant of the circular center section depicts the gable of the William Smedley homestead, as seen from Rose Tree Road.

The right quadrant illustrates the 1930s period, when the Smedley family operated a small dairy on the property. There, milk was bottled under the name "Penncrest Farms." Also depicted is one of the farm’s gateposts, which still stands near the intersection of North Middletown and Rose Tree roads.

Walter Smedley, a descendant of the original land grant recipient, was among many attending the dedication ceremony. He said that that although his late mother, Ida Balderson, wasn’t pleased at the time that the school borrowed the Penncrest name, he’s happy that it lives on.

The Penncrest seal and the initial "P" in red are seen at the bottom, along with a depiction of how the high school looked in the 1970s when Green was a student.

In outlining the elements of the window, Green noted that its four corners represent the directions on a compass: north, south, east and west. Intertwined with them are symbols for the four seasons of the year: spring flowers, a summer tree swing, autumn leaves and a snowman.

"It was fun designing it and making it," said Green about his artwork in stained glass. "I’m very pleased at how it turned out."

Pointing out that the stained-glass window project was the collaborative effort of many, Sebastian noted it represents "a labor of love that will forever inspire our students."

The arts at Penncrest also were represented at the unveiling ceremony through music presented by the high school’s Ambassador Choir and Clarinet Ensemble.

600450 Stained glass depicts Penncrest history
Date: 10 February 2004

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