Ken Matthias -- a stained glass guru after more than 30 years of practicing the craft of making it -- says the city of Alameda has more stained glass windows per capita than any other city in the nation.
That's right, Alameda. The Isle of Style, the Home of the Victorian, the Land that Time Forgot is the Bay Area's stained glass capital.
St. Louis and Savannah, Ga., get honorable mentions, says the owner of Alameda Art Glass, but Alameda is numero uno.
Matthias ought to know. For years he's been biking around Island streets, looking for gleams and glitters coming off decorative glass. He says he's surveyed 1,500 homes in Alameda, promising the owners he wouldn't reveal their addresses.
Twice a year, he gives a 75-minute slide show of the homes. He also keeps a Top 10 List and a binder full of his designs to prove his passion.
Matthias is compiling a book about Alameda's stained glass in hopes of preserving the history of the decades-old work and getting newcomers interested in the art. Matthias is passionate about stained glass, but he does have ulterior motives.
Matthias is co-owner of Alameda Art Glass with Wendy
Wilson Zellick, a 13-year stained glass artist. The two teach classes, restore vintage pieces and take commissions for custom designs for homes, including Alameda's large stock of Victorians and Craftsman bungalows, churches and restaurants.
Custom pieces for homes start at $200 a square foot and go up to $900 a square foot. Prices for finished products vary depending on the quality of the glass, the complexity of the design and the size of the piece.
"It's jewelry for your house," he says.
Matthias is the type of guy who will stop at nothing to photograph stained glass (he says he's knocked on hundreds of front doors of strangers), and this summer he launched "A Bike Old Alameda Cavalcade: Critical Glass," a maiden voyage combining the history of the Island's stained glass windows, exercise and fresh air.
Admission included a map with historical and architectural footnotes and color thumbnails of some of the sights along the way. The tour also included a trip to the Meyers House and Gardens, where some of Matthias' favorite pieces are on public display. He says he may do the bike trek again next year, but he's still gauging people's interest.