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"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why its called the present. "
Bill Keane

Chicago Stained Glass

Few other cities in the United States have the abundant display and variety of design as Chicago stained glass. As the city rebuilt after the great fire, many buildings incorporated stained glass into their structures. From the opulent Victorian windows, with their crystal cut beveled glass, art glass and faceted jewels, to the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie windows with his wonderful lustre glass, to the more common bungalow windows, Chicago has it all. In it’s hay-day, Chicago had many stained glass studios producing some of the nicest stained glass I have even seen, from the wealthy to the middle class.

Victorian Stained Glass
The Victorian era was not real familiar with the term ‘less is more’. Like the Tiffany figural windows, depicting landscapes and outdoor scenes, the Victorian windows were often centerpieces in a room, works of art, much like a painting, and were meant to be seen. They often used a mixture of bright cathedral glass, rich opalescent glass, mixed with sparkling hand beveled glass and faceted glass jewels to produce a truly stunning window. Some of the more important studios at the time were Tiffany, La Farge, Rudy Bros., and the J.R. Lamb Studio.

Bungalow Stained Glass
Living in a 1917 American Four Square, which is actually the big brother to the bungalow, I have always been interested in this style of stained glass. No doubt my favorite, it harkens back to a simpler time, when people were seeking a change from the excesses of the Victorian age. Built around 1890-1930, the bungalow was simple, comfortable and efficient. Primarily, built for the middle class, it concentrated on function and honest form. It appealed to a large segment of the population, people who wanted to move out of the crowded tenement housing and into their own homes. Most of the bungalows have a somewhat ‘arts and crafts’ feel, although at the time, I doubt most people understood what the arts and crafts movement was all about. They say the bungalow was fashioned after European summer homes or cottages. The stained glass in bungalows, spans nearly a 40 year period and I believe actually reflects three separate styles of glass. The stained glass was meant to blend in with the homes structure and be a part of the homes total decor, not stand out as art pieces as many of the Victorian windows. Some have the more straight-lined Frank Lloyd Wright designs, others have a softer, arts and crafts/art nouveau style, often depicting stylized flowers and leaves. The later bungalows have an almost art deco, streamlined look, some even incorporating double sided gold mirror. Unlike the Victorian windows, that were almost always one-of-kind custom made creations, bungalow windows could be and often were ordered from mail order catalogs. This kept the cost down and made stained glass more affordable for the average man. We have had the good fortune to have acquired an original stained glass catalog from the William C. Harder Stained Glass Studio on 2510 Archer Avenue in Chicago. The catalog dates from the 1920's and is a wonderful resource for original bungalow stained glass designs.

Prairie Style Stained Glass
The terms prairie style and arts and crafts, sometimes are used to describe the same style. Although from the same period, they are actually quite different. To me, the arts and crafts style has a somewhat art nouveau feel, with soft flowing lines. The prairie style, which is also known as Frank Lloyd Wright style, was like Wright’s homes and furniture, linear, often with parallel straight lines, small squares repeated in the pattern and chevrons. Wright wrote in 1928, “nothing is more annoying to me than any tendency towards realism of form in the window glass, to get mixed up with the outside view”. Wright used an interesting type of glass he described as ‘prairie lustre glass’. This glass had a soft gold type finish on the surface, much like Tiffany’s blown Faville iridescent glass pieces. When viewed without back light, the glass would give off a soft gold lustre. When back lit, the glass would emit a soft amber glow. We still use prairie type lustre glass today in some of our prairie windows.

Contemporary Stained Glass
In this style, pretty much anything goes, and the sky is the limit. We have been experimenting the past few years, using a more traditional design and tweak it using various contemporary clear textured glass.

You can see examples of these and the other style windows we have produced in our window photo gallery.

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