NORWOOD — Through the glow of the afternoon light, the history of generations can be seen in each piece of newly restored 118-year-old glass sitting high above the doorway of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Norwood .
The Stained Glass Annunciation Window at the church is a one-of-a-kind work by master craftsman Harry Horwood, an English artist who settled in Ogdensburg in 1881.
During a rededication for the recently restored window, the Rev. Kathyrn M. Boswell, rector of the church, stood in front of her congregation and, as she held a service, looked up at the window depicting the day the angel Gabriel came down from Heaven to tell the Virgin Mary that she would give birth.
Installed in 1906, the Rev. Ms. Boswell said for the three and a half years she has been holding services at St. Philip’s she never noticed how much detail had been hidden behind the dirt and grime.
“Even before it was restored, it was beautiful,” the Rev. Ms. Boswell said. “I just love that window, it is just lovely, but there was so much detail I couldn’t even see that I didn’t realize how much was there. And just the late afternoon sun, the way it comes through is just beautiful.”
Restoration of the window began in May 2013 and the window was returned to its home above the church’s entrance way in December.
Martville’s Historical Restorations Foundation founder Edward J. Dehors, who headed the project, said the window was made up of thousands of pieces of glass, which needed to be taken apart, cleaned and, in some cases, repainted and replaced.
“There were a lot of broken pieces that had to be repainted, matching glass, matching paint colors and style,” Mr. Dehors said. “It’s a vitreous paint that is fired in at 1,225 degrees into a permanence; that is how all of the stained-glass leaded glass windows are made. The faces, the hands, the feet, the robes and in this case, some of the flowers.”
With the broken pieces, Mr. Dehors said restorers would tape the glass together and make a new piece of glass to replicate it.
“Then once all the pieces are cleaned and all of the painting is done, each panel is put back together the way it was originally, like an I-beam that the glass sits in, and has to be soldered and cemented with a weather-proofing cement,” Mr. Dehors said.
“We have two or three projects going at any one time,” Mr. Dehors added. “That is with two to three people, eight hours a day, and me, I work on weekends; as founder of the foundation I don’t just work eight hours a day, it’s flat out, all of the time.”
Mr. Dehors, a member of the British Society of Master Glass Painters and author of “The Stained Glass Restoration Handbook of Short Stories, Volume 1,” said Mr. Horwood was “quite possibly the greatest painter in the United States”during the time he lived here.
Mr. Horwood’s work can be seen in the Smithsonian, Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, the Vanderbilt Mansion in New York City, The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec and, at one time, the Ogdensburg Opera House.
Ogdensburg historian David E. Martin has been spending years traveling the north country and Canada researching Mr. Horwood’s work for a book he is working on, for which Mr. Dehors has written a chapter of approximately 50 pages.
Following the service and rededication Sunday, Mr. Martin gave a presentation on the history of Harry Horwood and The Annunciation window.
“Most churches don’t know who made their stained-glass windows; they usually find out when I tell them,” Mr. Martin said. “He never normally signed his windows, though he signed this one. He didn’t believe it was about the artist but that it was about the art.”
Mr. Horwood and his son, Harry J., spent a total of 56 years in Ogdensburg, making windows for the north country and its churches, but The Annunciation window in St. Philip’s is one of a kind, Mr. Martin said.
“It is an unusual window in that it is a Tiffany-style window, which is very unusual for this particular artist,” Mr. Martin said. “There are so many small pieces in it and it was so much more labor intensive with all those tiny pieces and they all had to be painted and leaded.”
Mr. Martin said Harry Horwood had his own particular style, which was an English Victorian style, normally painting an image on one singular piece of glass, a much more rapid way of doing things.
Additionally, the price for the window was far more expensive than normal for Mr. Horwood at that time, Mr. Martin said.
“He charged $650 for that window and for him that was very unusual. He would normally do a window for $35 or $40,” Mr. Martin said. “I like to call him the poor man’s artist. For Horwood it wasn’t about the money, it was about the art and his desire to beautify God’s house.”
While there is no record of how long it took to make the window or when it had been commissioned, Mr. Dehors said, based on the time the window was created, if two people had worked on it, including all the glass cutting and designing and the whole process, he estimated about a year for completion.
“See, one nice thing about restoration is all the glass is cut. You just replace all the broken stuff, maybe have to paint a few pieces, but that’s one of the hardest things; and you know it fits,” Mr. Dehors said.
But to the Rev. Ms. Boswell, the window is more than a piece of art.
“It is not just art; I’m not that into architecture and that kind of thing, but the richness of people’s faith was important for them to give,” she said. “It’s a real gift. It’s like touching the people of the past. It gives us continuity through the generations.”