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Published: Saturday, 4/8/2006

Tiffany glass 'exhibit' on permanent display at First Congregational

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
First Congregational Church in Toledo's Old West End has 16 Tiffany stained-glass windows, including this one of Jesus appearing to Mary after his resurrection. First Congregational Church in Toledo's Old West End has 16 Tiffany stained-glass windows, including this one of Jesus appearing to Mary after his resurrection.
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An exhibit showcasing the artwork of Louis Comfort Tiffany is on display at the Toledo Museum of Art through the end of the month. But 16 of Tiffany's stained-glass masterpieces are permanently on view at First Congregational Church in Toledo's Old West End.

"There are times when you go in and the sermon doesn't quite strike you, or the music is not up to par, but you're always inspired by those windows!" said Gloria Park, a longtime member of First Congregational. "It puts a calm in your spirit. It's sad that people don't come and sit for awhile."

Phil Klunk, who has been attending First Congregational for 20 years, leads tours of the building and has taken photos of the Tiffany windows for a glossy poster that was produced last year.

"Every day, the sun shines differently through those windows, and the way they capture light changes every day," Mr. Klunk said. "Tiffany just knew how to work with glass."

He said he is fascinated by the nuances in "Ascension of Christ," one of the largest of the church's stained-glass windows.

"I am amazed at how that window is able to gather light. Even at twilight, it still shines. It attracts light."

He said he has heard stories, but cannot verify, that Louis C. Tiffany used to take customers by train from New York to Toledo just to show them the "Ascension of Christ" because he was so proud of that artwork.

The 16 Tiffany stained-glass windows are the only known Tiffany glass available for regular public viewing in Toledo except for those at the museum, according to Holly Taylor, the museum's marketing manager.

One of the church's windows perfectly fits this religious season: "Christ Appearing to Mary on Easter Morning." It features a view of Jesus standing in front of Mary in a lush garden setting.

First Congregational was founded in 1833 and built its first church on St. Clair Street in downtown Toledo. The members decided to move "to the suburbs," Mr. Klunk said, and laid the cornerstone for the Collinwood Boulevard church in the Old West End in 1912.

Eight of the Tiffany glass windows were moved from the church's previous location.

The new building, of Italian Renaissance architectural style, was designed to showcase the Tiffany windows, Mr. Klunk said. The congregation had spent a total of $150,000 (nearly $3 million in today's dollars) on the stained glass collection, according to The Blade's archives. Today, the glass windows are considered to be priceless, according to Ms. Taylor and Mr. Klunk.

In addition the 16 Tiffany stained-glass windows, First Congregational features stained-glass windows by the firms Lederle and Geissler and Payne-Spears.

First Congregational Church, 2315 Collingwood Blvd., is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Services are held at 11 a.m. Sunday. Information; 419-243-6248.

- David Yonke



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