Rare Tiffany window from Woodland Cemetery getting restored in Middletown

Credit: Journal News

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BeauVerre Riordan Studios in Middletown restoring Tiffany Glass windows from Woodland Cemetery in Dayton

Credit: Journal News

The chapel at Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum has long been home to an original Tiffany window considered one of the finest in the country.

Now it is getting carefully restored by one of the few businesses in the U.S. with the skills to do this meticulous work -- BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studio in Middletown.

“I think this is in the top 10 of Tiffany windows,” said Jay Moorman, who co-owns BeauVerre Rioran Studios in Middletown.

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BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studios in Middletown is in the process of restoring multiple Tiffany glass windows from the chapel of Woodland Historic Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. Artist Audrey Walker works on a section of the largest window of the project Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at BeauVerre Riordan Studios. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studios in Middletown is in the process of restoring multiple Tiffany glass windows from the chapel of Woodland Historic Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. Artist Audrey Walker works on a section of the largest window of the project Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at BeauVerre Riordan Studios. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

caption arrowCaption
BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studios in Middletown is in the process of restoring multiple Tiffany glass windows from the chapel of Woodland Historic Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. Artist Audrey Walker works on a section of the largest window of the project Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at BeauVerre Riordan Studios. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Tiffany

Moorman is well aware, after years of giving tours of his studio, that many people aren’t familiar with what a Tiffany window is.

“When we give tours, they don’t understand. They say Tiffany was a jeweler. They think Tiffany is a lamp. It is actually a person, Louis Comfort Tiffany,” Moorman said.

Tiffany (1848-1933), was the son of the founder of the prestigious silver and jewelry company. But Tiffany went another route, got interested in glass, and was a pioneer in the art form. The limited list of existing windows are highly valued though rarely sold, often found in historic churches. In one rare sale in 2000, a highly valued Tiffany window fetched a price of $1.9 million, AP reports.

Moorman described himself as a longtime Tiffany buff. He said if there’s a rotted piece of wood that can’t be reused on a project, he still saves it because he knows that wood scrap was in Tiffany Studios.

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Moorman, who said he has read every book he can find on Tiffany, can recognize his signature style of window right away. Tiffany invented opalescent glass, with its milky sheen, and his studio would layer glass together to get the right color and shading, which others weren’t doing in the field, Moorman said.

“That’s where you can really see a Tiffany window,” Moorman said.

With the Woodland Cemetery’s window, there are places with five layers of glass and that style means that dirt can get into the layers. Then overtime, the window lead fatigues, making the windows weaker.

“What you have to do is take all five layers apart, piece by piece, clean each piece and then make sure they all go back in the same order. ,” Moorman said.

The Middletown studio

Jay and Linda Moorman’s BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studios has a skill set almost as unique as the window itself.

“Beau Verre” means “beautiful glass” in French and it the studio is downtown at 1054 Central Ave., where the team of artists do new design and construction as well as repair and restore.

Jay Moorman said he and his wife wanted stained glass for their house and in order to afford it, he learned how to make it. The hobby grew from working in the garage for family and friends, to quitting his day job, because of a contract with the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati requiring two years of work and hiring eight artists.

The current studio is the combination of two storied businesses. Beau Verre bought the historic Riordan Studios, also in southwest Ohio and the oldest studio in the United States dating back to 1838.

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Riordan’s late owner who sold the studio in 2002, Walter Bambach, was originally from Austria and had learned his trade working in the stained glass department at a monastery, where his father brought him to protect him from being sent to concentration camp.

Moorman said his team had worked with Bambach for several years on a job when Bambach was sick. “That’s where I got a lot of my restoration training,” he said.

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BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studios in Middletown is in the process of restoring multiple Tiffany glass windows from the chapel of Woodland Historic Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. These are some of the smaller side windows that have been restored. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studios in Middletown is in the process of restoring multiple Tiffany glass windows from the chapel of Woodland Historic Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. These are some of the smaller side windows that have been restored. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

caption arrowCaption
BeauVerre Riordan Stained Glass Studios in Middletown is in the process of restoring multiple Tiffany glass windows from the chapel of Woodland Historic Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton. These are some of the smaller side windows that have been restored. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Woodland Arboretum

Over two years into the restoration project with Woodland, Beau Verre’s artists have been putting those restoration skills to work.

Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum, which sits on the southeast end of the city, is home to a historic gateway chapel that has been home to a Tiffany stained glass window featuring a pastoral scene. Besides the centerpiece window, there are rows of eight Tiffany stained glass windows on the east and west sides of the Chapel.

The chapel, which has not been open to the public since the mid 1980s, was designed in 1884 and then redesigned in 1904 to house the Tiffany window.

There’s also hand-cut Tiffany tile floor, which Moorman spotted when he was in the chapel. “With the books that I have read, I looked and knew right away that the intricacy of the floor was Tiffany, and after investigation, they agree,” Moorman.

Moorman said he had advocated for years to help save the window, which he noticed deteriorating when visiting years ago, but it’s been a process for the organization to raise the funds. A $1 million gift from the James M. Cox Foundation is among funds helping Woodland with overall historic restoration work. They are still accepting donations toward the chapel restoration fund at woodlandcemetery.org/donate.

“I said like 15 years ago, I’m begging to do this window,” he said. “I can do it on time, payments, whatever you need, but you’ve got to save this window.”

Work on the removal of the first two windows began in 2019.

As part of the process, a charcoal rubbing is made of the window while it is intact. This allows the artisans to place the dismantled window piece by piece on the template. Some pieces of glass are as small as a lima bean, according to Woodland Cemetery, and the work to individually clean each piece is painstaking.

He hopes to have the Woodland windows finished by mid 2022.

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