Borough tour of stained glass treasures

The altar of Christ Church Riverdale is in line with the stained glass and mosaic theme of this year’s Sacred Sites Open House Weekend.
Photos courtesy of The New York Landmarks Conservancy

Three borough religious sites that are home to historic stained glass windows and mosaics are holding upcoming open houses.

Woodlawn Cemetery, St. James Episcopal Church in Fordham and Christ Church Riverdale will open their doors on Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21 as part of the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Open House Weekend.

Over 150 institutions statewide will allow the public to glimpse their artistic treasures over the weekend, with the theme of this year’s open houses ‘Stained Glass: Windows on this World and the Next.’

“Don’t miss the wonderful opportunity the Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Open House presents to explore the art, architecture and history these religious institutions offer,” said Peg Breen, NYLC president.

Woodlawn Cemetery, which is home to 1,300 family mausoleums, has many different types of stained glass, including those created by Louis Comfort Tiffany and John LaFarge.

“With the Tiffany windows, they range from flowers to landscapes,” said Susan Olsen, Woodlawn Conservancy director of historical services, adding “We have lots of interior mosaics at Woodlawn.”

The mosaics and stained glass windows feature biblical scenes as well as those that were custom built and have more of a personal connection to the deceased in terms of what they depict, she said.

Additionally, glass was used in mosaics of star constellations that frequently adorn the ceilings of mausolea, said Olsen.

A pre-booked tour takes place at Woodlawn on May 20 at 3 p.m. and the grounds will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days.

Woodlawn can be contacted at (718) 920-0500.

St. James Episcopal is home to six Tiffany stained glass windows that were installed in the church from 1889 to 1929.

Woodlawn Cemetery is part of this year’s open house weekend.
Photos courtesy of The New York Landmarks Conservancy

According to church history, a member of the Tiffany family was part of the congregation for a while, said Sharee Melton, St. James warden.

The windows span the career of Louis Tiffany and include depictions of Lilies and Apple Blossoms, ‘The True Vine,’ Resurrection morning, Saint Augustine and his mother Monica and the Resurrection angel.

Another one of the likely reasons the Tiffany glass was installed at St. James was at the time of the church’s construction in the 1860s, the surrounding area, particularly to the west of Jerome Avenue, was home to some very wealthy people, said Lloyd Ultan, official borough historian.

The church was built to attract and keep this group in the area, he said.

“(The windows) are one of the glories of St. James Church,” said Ultan.

Contact St. James at (718) 367-0655 to inquire about the weekend.

Christ Church Riverdale is home to notable stained glass as well, including windows dedicated to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, said Aija Sears, a volunteer at the church.

In addition to the funeral for Mayor LaGuardia, New York Yankee great Lou Gehrig, who also lived nearby had his final service at the church, said Ultan.

The church features a window by French stained glass artist Eugene Oudinot.

The congregation will loan visitors guidebooks about its window art, said Sears.

To reach Christ Church Riverdale call (718) 543-1011.

One of the sites on the tour is St. James Episcopal Fordham.
Photos courtesy of The New York Landmarks Conservancy

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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