Tucked away in an Arlington County storage facility is a shattered Tiffany Studios stained glass window of Jesus Christ in the act of blessing those who gaze on him.
For decades, it adorned The Abbey Mausoleum that once stood near Arlington National Cemetery. Light would have pierced the 12-paneled, 9-foot by 6-foot window, casting jewel tones on the burial site of the man to whom the window was dedicated — E. St. Clair Thompson, a wealthy Mason interred there in 1933.
Surrounding “Christ in Blessing,” fittingly, were 12 windows with a simple geometric border and a floral design in the middle.
The Abbey Mausoleum was once “a prestigious burial ground,” built by the United States Mausoleum Company in the 1920s, according to a write-up of the mausoleum and windows Arlington Arts provided to ARLnow.
“However, with the bankruptcy of the managing Abbey Mausoleum Corporation in the 1950s, the building fell victim to vandalism and neglect,” the report says.
So too did “Christ in Blessing,” which has lost many panels. When the U.S. Navy acquired the mausoleum site in 2000, it decided to tear down the Romanesque structure due to its poor condition.
“Arlington was permitted to salvage architectural features from the building, including the windows,” the document said. “At the same time, the enormous task of relocating remains and contacting the families of those interred at the mausoleum began.”
While removing the window, the county discovered a signature in the bottom right-hand corner — “Louis C. Tiffany, N.Y.” — tying the window to the famous Art Nouveau artisan, son of the founder of Tiffany & Co., and his stained glass studio.
“The inscription coincides with those used by Louis C. Tiffany at the time this window was created, confirming its authenticity to the degree possible absent written documentation regarding its commission,” the Arlington Arts document said.
The window was likely commissioned by Thompson’s family, although no records of that exist, Arlington Arts says.
Today, visitors can view some of the geometric windows at Arlington Arts Center and Westover Library. Those that were too damaged were broken into fragments to restore other windows. Visitors to the Fairlington Community Center can see a stained glass skylight that also ornamented the mausoleum.
For two decades, however, the county has held onto “Christ in Blessing,” which it has not displayed because it’s in poor condition and needs the right setting.
“Significant damage to the panel was sustained from vandalism during the four decades that the mausoleum sat abandoned, and it definitely needs restoration before it can be safely and properly displayed,” Arlington Arts spokesman Jim Byers, Jr. said.
Now, the county is on the cusp of finding a restorer and a permanent home. This Saturday, the County Board is slated to approve a loan agreement with Central United Methodist Church in Ballston, which has agreed to pay for restoration work and display the window after the church is rebuilt.
“The restoration is being overseen by Ballston Limited Partnership and the Central United Methodist Church, which can offer the liturgical setting that is ideal for the restored work,” Byers said.
The church is set to be redeveloped by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The new, 8-story building on Fairfax Drive, near the Ballston Metro station, will include 144 committed affordable housing units and a childcare facility for up to 100 children. Construction is slated to start this fall and APAH expects work to finish by winter 2023-24.
All that would remain is to adorn the church with the resurrected Tiffany window.
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St. Charles offers a play-based curriculum in a welcoming, Christ-centered environment.
Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.
We offer Summer Camp with weekly themes and twice a week water play, including Fun Friday moon bounce. Please join us for our Open House Feb. 3 at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. Click here to sign-up.
For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at www.stcharlesarlington.org or call (703) 527-0608.
If you are a lifelong learner over 50+ who wants to make new friends, power up your brain, and enjoy a wide-variety college-level courses, Encore Learning is for you. An Arlington based nonprofit, Encore Learning offers courses in the arts, theater, literature, history, technology and more. This semester we offer our most popular course, Global Hot Spots as well as 25 new courses. Courses are presented either online or in-person at George Mason University at Virginia Square and other Arlington locations.
Join the free presentation to learn about courses and meet the instructors. This is Encore Learning’s signature event to highlight the upcoming semester with brief presentations by each instructor.
The Spring Course Preview event is Thursday, February 2nd at 9:30 AM via Zoom:
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