When I first heard about the sale of this monumental Tiffany window, from a church right here in town, I was stumped. How did I not know about this? The church is in my neighborhood at a busy intersection, why hadn’t I seen it all going down? Here’s why: The press release announcing the acquisition went out on February 12, 2020. So obviously the story fell through the cracks at that tumultuous time and it seems possible that others may have missed it as well. From that date, four years ago:
The Art Institute of Chicago announced today the acquisition of an extraordinary memorial window, attributed to Agnes F. Northrop and made by Tiffany Studios in 1917. Originally commissioned for the Central Baptist Church (now known as Community Church of Providence) as the gift of Mary L. Hartwell in memory of her husband, Frederick W. Hartwell, the window is a pinnacle achievement in the medium of stained glass.
. . . The design of the window is attributed to Agnes F. Northrop, the firm’s leading landscape window designer. At twenty-six feet high by eighteen feet wide, and made up of 48 different panels, the scene depicts a distant view of Mount Chocorua, one of the most beloved peaks of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
One reason the removal process may have passed without notice: The window in question was not the one facing on Wayland Avenue; it was one of similar dimensions in the rear, above the small parking lot.
(The church building was erected in 1917 at the intersection of Wayland and Lloyd Avenues when the congregation was known as Central Baptist. In 2003 the members voted to call themselves the Community Church of Providence. For those missing their window, related merch is available at the AIC gift shop.)
This is not the first time a local cultural institution has found itself in possession of something that was becoming too valuable: In 2006 the Providence Atheneum sold its copy of Audubon’s ‘Birds’ for over $5-million. In 1989 a Goddard desk made over $12-million at auction benefiting the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization. I was unable to determine what the church received in exchange for the window.
The Hartwell Memorial Window is installed in the Henry Crown Gallery at the top of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase. Located near the Michigan Avenue entrance, this magnificent work greets visitors with radiant beauty as they begin their journey through the museum.
So here’s my report . . . four years late. Thank you for your patience.
Community Church, 372 Wayland Avenue, (directions)
I dropped in recently and was greeted by a very lovely woman. When asked whether the congregants missed the window she replied,”We now have a clear view of God’s beautiful creation.”
There’s a bowling alley downstairs.