MILWAUKEE — Inside a Milwaukee church are some of the nicest, rarest, and most valuable stained glass windows you will ever come across. They are Tiffany's stained glass windows. Yes, like the Tiffany's brands.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church 914 E. Knapp Street in Milwaukee is home to 11 Tiffany's stained glass windows. The estimated value for each window is at least $100,000 but really they priceless.
“Back in those days you could get a Tiffany window for 10, 15, $20,000. Today, you can’t buy a Tiffany window because there is no Tiffany any more," Paul Haubrich, the Chair of Building and Grounds Committee of St. Paul's said.
- The rare Tiffany's stained glass window collection at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Milwaukee [PHOTOS]
"Back in those days" refers to when the church was built which was in 1884. Tiffany glass was produced from 1878 to 1933 before Louis Comfort Tiffany died. You can find Tiffany glass in just about 100 churches or museums across the world. The majority of it is located in the New England area, and the farther west you go, the more rare it becomes. There are a few windows in Canada, Mexico, England and in other parts of the globe.
“Tiffany’s specialty was color and design, and his use of opalescent glass. He’s one of the first stained glass people to use opalescent glass," Haubrich said.
The color and texture of these windows makes Tiffany glass so unique. One of his techniques was drapery glass. He was able to make glass look like real robes on a person that folded over and contoured to a character's body.
As churches were built in the Midwest during the Gilded Age (1870-1900), German churches wanted German glass, Italian churches wanted Italian glass, and American churches wanted American glass. Tiffany windows were the standard of excellence for American glass. Since St. Paul's was an American congregation, it wanted American glass, so it got Tiffany glass.
“Tiffany windows are great at reflecting light and telling the story that’s in them," Haubrich said.
Not only does St. Paul's have a huge collection of Tiffany glass, it also has one of the largest Tiffany stained glass windows ever made.
“It’s a huge window. It’s 32 feet high. It’s 16 feet across at the base. It’s a lot of space to fill which makes it really unique.”
It's a bit of history right in our backyard. Before the pandemic, the church organized tours for people to learn more about the glass. Since March 2020, those have been put on pause. However, in the spring, Haubrich said that the church might resume tours. Go to the church's website to stay up to date.