Tiffany Stained Glass Window Restored and Displayed in Arlington

Published on May 06, 2024

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Christ in Blessing, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Studios stained glass window, is now on display in the entrance of the redeveloped Central United Methodist Church (CUMC), overlooking the protected Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground.

In addition to the new church, the new Unity Homes at Ballston mixed-use site plan development, also features 144 committed affordable housing units, a daycare facility, and a commercial kitchen.  

Nearly 23 years after its salvage from the Abbey Mausoleum in Arlington and approximately 90 years since its original fabrication, Christ in Blessing is the last of 13 stained glass windows to be restored. Washington Art Glass Studio, LLC (WAGS) undertook the meticulous restoration and installed the window at CUMC in February 2024.

"The restoration of this final piece from the Abbey Mausoleum collection exemplifies the importance of partnerships across County departments and with the private sector," said Historic Preservation Program Supervisor Cynthia Liccese-Torres. "This artifact presented an extreme challenge to find a suitable reuse, given its large size, religious symbolism, and level of restoration needed. Ongoing collaboration between Arlington County Public Art, Historic Preservation, and affordable housing developer Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) made the long-anticipated restoration possible."

In the mid-2000s, the other salvaged windows, which featured geometric and floral motifs, were the first to be reconfigured into a total of eight restored art works. These were ultimately installed in the former Clarendon School, now home to the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington (3550 Wilson Boulevard), Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street), and Westover Library (1644 N. McKinley Road).

The featured and largest piece from the mausoleum’s collection, Christ in Blessing, suffered considerable damage. The 9' high by 6' wide leaded glass window, dating to ca. 1934, is comprised of twelve panels of single-layer French or German antique mouth-blown glass, matted, painted, and fired, with silver stain highlights. Approximately 35 percent of the original glass in the window was either missing or damaged.

As approved by the County Board, the Unity Homes at Ballston site plan required several conditions for the restoration of the Tiffany window. WAGS collected the window from the County in March 2022 and began a 12-month restoration following very specific guidelines and using specialized expertise. Within the two central panels, the head of Christ was significantly damaged with missing fragments in the figure's right eye, cheek, beard, and neck. Retaining as much of the original material as possible, the head was restored in its entirety, matching the existing glass and copying original painting techniques as closely as possible. Upon completion of the restoration, WAGS archived, packed, and returned the original fragmented pieces from the Christ figure’s head to Arlington County, along with all documentation, for archival purposes.

"The restoration of the Tiffany window was a wonderful way to satisfy the Unity Homes at Ballston project’s required public art contribution," said Public Art Administrator Angela Anderson Adams. "We are grateful to Washington Art Glass Studio for their expertise in restoring this treasured piece and to APAH for agreeing to fund it and publicly display the window."

Eleven other original stained glass windows were salvaged in September 2021 from the 1923 CUMC building prior to its demolition for the redevelopment project. They too were restored by WAGS and are now featured in the new CUMC sanctuary.

About Arlington Public Art

Arlington Public Art directly commissions artworks integrated into County’s capital improvement projects, coordinates artworks commissioned by real estate developers as part of the site plan process and assists community groups to initiate public art projects on public property. It also partners with local arts and community organizations, artists and businesses to present interpretative projects, temporary artworks, exhibitions and more. Arlington Public Art is a program of Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development, which delivers public activities and programs as Arlington Arts.

About the Historic Preservation Program

The Historic Preservation Program works to protect, interpret, celebrate, and educate the public about Arlington’s history, built environment, and cultural heritage. Arlington’s historic places are important links to the past and contribute much to its character. The program seeks to engage with a diverse range of voices to foster the racial and cultural equity of history in Arlington. Their work encourages the community to explore, understand, and appreciate the diverse history, architecture, and people that weave the fabric of the County's heritage.

About Abbey Mausoleum

Built on a hillside overlooking Arlington National Cemetery and the Potomac River in 1924, the Abbey Mausoleum was once a grand final resting-place for Washington, DC’s elite. The mausoleum, built by the United States Mausoleum Company from 1924 to 1926, was an impressive Romanesque style structure that neighbored Arlington National Cemetery and in 1942 was included within the grounds of Henderson Hall, the U.S. Marine Corps headquarters. With the bankruptcy of the managing Abbey Mausoleum Corporation in the 1950s, the building fell victim to vandalism and neglect. In 2000, the U.S. Navy gained ownership of the site, and because of the mausoleum’s poor condition, decided to tear it down. Arlington County was given the opportunity to salvage architectural features from the historic building, including the Tiffany windows.

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