Richmond's Glass Act

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Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the famous New York jeweler, was one of the most creative and prolific American designers of the late 19th century. Until the bankruptcy of his studios in 1931, Tiffany's visionary interpretation of natural form produced thousands of art nouveau masterpieces of light and color in the form of glass lamps, vases and particularly windows. In terms of domestic cachet, having windows by Tiffany may be second only to having blueprints by Frank Lloyd Wright. A surprising trove of Tiffany's work can be found 90 miles away in Richmond. Here are five places, in hotels, museums and churches, where Tiffany's translucent genius is on public view. Info: 888-742-4666 , http://www.richmond.com/ .

-- Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt

1 St. Paul's Episcopal Church . Both Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis worshiped at this 1845 Greek Revival-style church across from Capitol Square. St. Paul's is home to 20 impressive stained-glass windows, 10 of which came from the Tiffany Studios. For a self-guided tour, enter the sanctuary from Grace Street and pick up the "Walking Tour" brochure. A guided tour begins at the conclusion of the 11 a.m. Sunday service. The Tiffany mosaic altarpiece is a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's fresco of "The Last Supper." St. Paul's considers this creation to be its foremost work of art.

815 E. Grace St., 804-643-3589, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and after Sunday services. Free. http://www.stpauls-episcopal.org/ .

2 Maymont House Museum . Completed in 1893, Maymont reflects the opulent taste of James Henry Dooley, a late-19th-century Richmond millionaire, and stands as an exceptional representative of America's Gilded Age. Dooley and his wife, Sallie, founder of the first Virginia chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, lived in this Romanesque Revival mansion before giving it to the city in 1925 as a park and museum. The 15-foot-tall Tiffany window graces the estate's three-story main staircase. Peek inside the library for a much smaller representation of Tiffany's skill, a golden jack-in-the-pulpit vase.

1700 Hampton St., 804-358-7166, Tuesday- Sunday noon-5 p.m. Free, though a $5 donation is appreciated. http://www.maymont.org/ .

3 Temple Beth Ahabah Museum & Archives . The architectural symmetry of Beth Ahabah, the sixth-oldest Jewish congregation in the country, makes this an unusually beautiful and calming house of worship. The organ, installed in 1904, is still used today. But its banks of stained-glass windows -- one of which is a signed 1923 Tiffany depicting Moses on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God -- are its true jewels. For a guided tour, visit the museum next door to the synagogue.

1109 W. Franklin St., 804-353-2668, Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. -3 p.m. Suggested donation: $3 for adults, $2 for seniors and children. http://www.bethahabah.org/ .

4 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts . In addition to its other permanent collections (including the largest public collection of Faberge imperial Easter eggs outside of Russia), VMFA boasts an impressive art nouveau collection of furniture (by Louis Majorelle, Emile Galle, Hector Guimard and others), jewelry and decorative items, including a Tiffany window that originally hung in a private residence. The museum also owns a 30-inch Tiffany Favrile punch bowl and more than a dozen mass-produced "waste" glass Tiffany lamps, which Louis Tiffany had made from leftover window shards.

200 N. Boulevard, 804-340-1400, Wednesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Free, though a $5 donation is appreciated. http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/ .

5 Jefferson Hotel . Conceived and built by Confederate Maj. Lewis Ginter, once one of Richmond's wealthiest citizens, the 1895 Jefferson is considered a supreme example of Beaux Arts style. Though a fire demolished three-fifths of the property in 1901 and the hotel suffered through several periods of decline, it is now back to Mobil five-star status with committed local owners. The Tiffany is a stunning 35-foot-wide skylight above the Carrara marble statue of Thomas Jefferson in the upper lobby. If you come in the afternoon, the stained glass throws a fine light on the hotel's high tea.

101 W. Franklin St., 804-788-8000, high tea served Thursday-Sunday 3-4:15 p.m., http://www.jeffersonhotel.com/ .


© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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