All it Takes is Some Stained Glass and a Good Idea!
I have always loved stories about European stained glass windows being hidden in secret locations or buried underground to protect them from war. Imagine how excited I was to find out that Ashland has its own stained glass story! You could say that Ashland’s stained glass is hidden in plain sight!
In the 1960’s, The Federated Church was faced with a very difficult decision about the repair costs of their stained glass windows. The windows were in need of major repairs but the price to fix them was higher than the windows themselves! SInce it would be cheaper to replace them, the stained glass windows were removed. Thankfully, the original stained glass windows were not thrown away, instead they were stored in the garage of a Mrs. Clarke on Pleasant Street for safe keeping- She must have had a gigantic garage.
There the windows stayed at Mrs. Clarke’s until the winter of 1966 when a member of the congregation, Mrs. Blair had an idea! She would use the stained glass to make ornaments, selling them, and donate the funds back to the church! Her plan was in motion…now for one minor detail: how to make stained glass. Of course, Mrs. Blair had that covered! A friend of hers was skilled in the art of stained glass and taught Mrs. Blair plus three other women of the church (Mrs. Bohlin, Mrs. Lentros, and Mrs. Dix) the art of glass working! Scoring, cutting, sanding edges, soldering, and framing; these ladies were ready to take on Mrs. Blair’s plan!
The women met every week for over 5 years! Over the time the group created an assembly line. An average night of stained glass crafting would produce about three ornaments which contained 95% of glass from the church windows. Some people who knew about the project donated glass to the ladies- pieces came from an old train depot, others from an old Ashland home. Red glass, however, had to be purchased since the original windows did not have any.
Their colorful glass creations were sold at the Federated Church Fall Fair or by word-of-mouth throughout the year. With roughly 40 different designs which included mushrooms, berry clusters, lighthouses, blue birds, water lilies, hummingbirds, toy soldiers, owls, Madonna’s, and butterflies; these ladies were very creative! Over the years new helpers would come and go; Mrs. Bixby, Mrs. Leaman, Mrs. Dorothy McGill, Mrs. Green, and Ellie Grover, and Mrs. Margot Ellsworth (I am sure there were more).
Mrs. Blair kept the project and funds a secret until they reached her goal in 1979. The money raised helped pay for the sanctuary and narthex carpeting and chandelier in the sanctuary plus cushions on the pews were reupholstered. WOW!
Some of you might be the proud owner of one of these ornaments, maybe you never knew the story behind them, or maybe you have been wanting one of these beauties (Not that I am bitter about not owning one… OK, I am bitter!). Either way, I hope you display them with pride now that you know the story behind them.
Newspaper article: Stained Glass: A secret Technique Employed to Assist Ashland Church by Lee Schmidt
Photos: From the 1965, Federated Church membership roster, provided by Cliff Wilson.