Thursday, November 18, 2010

Page 5 - The Bryn Athyn Glassworks

John Larson was associated with the project at Bryn Athyn from 1916 to 1922. In his own factory in Glendale, NY on Long Island, Larson prepared samples of glass which he sent down for the craftsmen at Bryn Athyn to use. Frustrated by the slowness of this process, Raymond Pitcairn asked Larson to close his factory and move to Bryn Athyn. Larson refused, agreeing instead to set up a factory in Bryn Athyn and train local workers. 
PHOTO: Glencairn Archives
The result was the Bryn Athyn Glassworks which opened in 1922 and produced glass until 1942. His employee, David Smith, accompanied Larson to Bryn Athyn and stayed on to run the glass works after Larson was eventually dismissed by Pitcairn. 
PHOTO: Glencairn Archives

Page 4 - Pitcairn meets John Larson

Raymond Pitcairn did indeed spend a small fortune collecting historic stained glass windows, primarily from the French gothic period. 
Not as art objects only, these panels were to serve as inspiration for his craftsmen to study. Raymond was obsessed with recreating, in the most authentic way possible, the techniques used in 12th century gothic cathedrals and to do that he had to solve the problem of creating the right kind of glass for the windows. 
After investigating several sources he eventually consulted Louis Comfort Tiffany. In 1916 Tiffany directed him to a man named John Larson. 
PHOTO: Glencairn Archives
Larson was descended from a dynasty of glass blowers. 
His father, Axel Larson, came from Sweden where he had worked for the Kosta factory (today’s Kosta Boda Glassworks). After immigrating to America, Axel Larson and his children found work at the Dorflinger Glassworks in White Hills, Pennsylvania
Dorflinger, self-proclaimed “America’s finest glass makers”, created glass for the White House. The factory produced blown ware with color overlays which were elaborately engraved. In all likelihood, Axel Larson in addition to being a skilled glassblower would have had knowledge of color formulas.

Page 3 - Windows for the Cathedral

PHOTO: Glencairn Archives
After his father’s death, Raymond Pitcairn became intimately involved with the building of Bryn Athyn Cathedral. He was obsessive about the medieval style and wanted the windows to be glazed in the method of the European cathedrals. 
PHOTO: Glencairn Archives
The original architect of the cathedral, Ralph Adams Cram, suggested that the cathedral windows needed to be made from mouth-blown glass, not with rolled glass which was popular at the time. 
PHOTO: Glencairn Archives
Pitcairn asked for window designs from Clement Heaton and Charles Connick. Eventually he decided to have craftsmen from the Bryn Athyn community undertake the job, among them his good friend, the artist Winfred Hyatt. A few years later Lawrence Saint joined the project. 

Page 2 - Bryn Athyn & the Pitcairns

Bryn Athyn is a small suburban community located in 20 miles north of Philadelphia on land that was purchased by John Pitcairn. 
PHOTO: Glencairn Archives
Pitcairn’s fortune came from investments in the railroad and in oil. With several others, he founded the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. in 1883. 
This provided the resources for the extraordinary flourishing of architecture in the Bryn Athyn community: Bryn Athyn Cathedral, Pitcairn’s home, Cairnwood, and the home of his son Raymond, which is now the Glencairn Museum
PHOTO: Glencairn Museum
These three buildings now form the core of a newly designated National Historic Landmark District.

Page 1 - Saint Addresses the SGAA

“I’m sure it is an honor to address the members of the Stained Glass Association of America and to speak to coworkers with me in the most beautiful craft in the world. We are happy to live today in a church and cathedral building era and it is very encouraging that today we find greater appreciation for our work than perhaps this country has ever seen. It is well known that in our times one man, Mr. Raymond Pitcairn has had the courage to spend for an old panel of stained glass a little over $10,000 a square foot and Mr. Pitcairn has been one of the most greatest encouragers of our beautiful craft who has happened along for several centuries. His policy of experimentation and deep research, of going to the very limit after the highest possible ideals is getting results little known or appreciated as yet but which will vitally affect the destiny of our craft. For nearly eight years it has been my privilege along with several other workers to serve Mr. Pitcairn on the Bryn Athyn church windows. I suggest that sometime you step into the church and see for yourself what he has done there.”

This was from an address that Lawrence Saint made to the Stained Glass Association of America in 1925 and he was rightly bragging about his role in the glazing of the beautiful Bryn Athyn Cathedral, center for the New Christian Church, Swedenborgian denomination.