Our path to the Garden Show the other day took us through the labyrinthine halls of Navy Pier. Had the weather been fair, we would have walked the length of the pier outside, but heavy rain forced us to bob along in the crowd jamming the corridors inside.
There, we shuffled through a low dim tunnel lined with eateries, souvenir shops, and gimcrackery, until suddenly we found ourselves passing through an amazing stained-glass museum installed in many niches along both sides of the hall.
There were over a hundred full-size stained-glass windows, dating from the 1870s to the present time. Many of the old ones were made here in the city, and subsequently salvaged from old houses, churches, and businesses that are long since gone. Now, in this wonderful free museum, they are safe.
Chicago was once a major center of glass-making. In the rebuilding that followed the Great Fire of 1871, skilled artisans flooded here from all over knowing that they could ply their trade. Many were immigrants bringing their crafts from Europe. As Chicagoans became more wealthy, they poured money into building finer buildings, commissioning many stained-glass works. The couple who collected these specimens purchased the works of local studios as well as those made by such greats as John La Farge and Louis Comfort Tiffany, whose work, Lilies of the Field, is shown above.
After the Garden Show, I enjoyed looking at these stained glass windows even more. I admired the way they immortalized the ephemeral, transmuting the works of nature into wonders of a more spiritual kind, rekindling the awe that its beauties often call out in us.
Click the images to enlarge.