Monday, June 1, 2015

Morse Museum - Part I

One of the things I wanted to do on my recent trip to Florida was to visit the Morris Museum in Winter Park. With no Society appointments on Wednesday, I made the drive from Sarasota. The museum is located in the center of town in a new location since 1995. Two buildings were purchased and then joined together with a tower and designed to blend with the local area. The cost was $7 million and the area is about 42,000 square feet. It is well done in every respect.

The Scottish American History Club has had several presentations on the Columbian Exposition so we knew about the Tiffany Chapel. I also knew that there were other Chicago connections in addition to the 1893 World’s Fair.

At his studio in New York City, Louis Comfort Tiffany, designed a chapel interior for the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company and had it shipped to Chicago for the Columbian Exposition. (Tiffany & Co. was long associated with Chicago having a store here as early as the 1850s.) The chapel proved to be very popular. It was so impressive that men removed their hats and individuals knelt in prayer. The chapel won 54 medals including one for the “electrification of its imposing chandelier.”

 Louis was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany and Company, and Harriet Olivia Avery Young, the daughter of Judge Young of Killingly, Connecticut. Tiffany’s father, Charles Lewis Tiffany was also born in Killingly. Given my limited research, the family appears to be English but “Young” is certainly a Scottish name.

Born in New York City, Louis Comfort Tiffany was married twice. First to Miss Mary Woodbridge Goddard in 1872. Mary, known as “May” was born June 5, 1846 in Salem, CT. They were married on Wednesday, May 22, 1872, by the Rev. Mr. Dana in Norwich, Conn. Mary was twenty years old. does not show a father or a mother for Mary Goddard but the name appears to be English She died in 1884 at the age of thirty-two and had given birth to four children.

After her death, Tiffany married Miss Louise Wakeman Knox, daughter of the Rev. J. H. Mason Knox of Philadelphia. Here is the Scottish connection. The “patronymic and matronymic” of James Hall Mason Knox both came directly from Scottish heritage - His father from the Ulster region of Norther Ireland (Ulster-Scot) and his mother directly from Scotland. Louise was the “granddaughter of Dr. John Mason who was born in Mid-Calder Scotland in 1734.” (Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society [1901-1930] Vol. No. 2 [September 1903], pp. 65-74). He and his second wife also had four children.

In 1885, Tiffany built a home commissioned by his father, at Seventh-Second Street and Madison Avenue in New York City. It was designed and built by the Scottish firm of McKim, Mead and White with 57 rooms. The home no longer exists but there is a picture on the Internet.

One contemporary critic of Tiffany stated: “It is acknowledged by all experts that the great advance made in this country in both colored windows and wall mosaic work is largely due to the discoveries and inventions of Mr. Tiffany, Particularly that of Favrile Glass.” Favrile glass was an iridescent glass that Tiffany created in his famous Tiffany studios, Favrile glass was copied by almost every important glass studio working at the time but few came close to the quality and style that Tiffany employed in his process.” (American Silversmiths). He was even commissioned by President Chester A. Arthur to decorate the White House. Louis Comfort Tiffany was described as a Renaissance man.

When the Chicago Public Library (now the Chicago Cultural Center) was finished in 1897, it contained a 38-foot glass dome designed by Tiffany. It had some 30,000 separate pieces of art glass set in 243 panels. It remained unchanged until the 1930's when it was covered by a concrete and copper dome. The dome has now been removed so that natural light can reflect the original beauty. Stop in and see it some day. On the Internet, you can find an article entitled “A Tale of Two Tiffanies Restored” by Gary L. Cole that gives more information.

The Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois has several Tiffany windows. When the World’s Fair occurred in Chicago many parishioners visited the Fair and became acquainted with Tiffany. In 1895, the church received its first window. One of the windows “may have been the central panel of Tiffany’s Chapel...according to church oral history.” The Second Presbyterian church in Chicago has nine stained glass windows by Tiffany. “Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Indiana has a collection of 62 Tiffany windows which are still in their original placement but the church is deteriorating and is in jeopardy.” The American Church in Paris has two windows and there are others, but too many for this short article.

After the World’s Fair in 1893, the chapel was dismantled and taken back to New York City. In 1898, Mrs. Celia Whipple Wallace (there must be a Scottish story with that name) bought the chapel and gave it to The Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine which was under construction at the time. The Priest was opposed to the style of architecture, so it was placed in the basement and the arches cut to fit the space. It suffered water damage and finally in 1916, Louis Tiffany wrote the church and offered to remove it at his expense.

He had it taken to his estate, Laurelton Hall, on Long Island. Tiffany had designed and built a mansion of eight levels with 84-rooms on 600 acres of land, including 60 acres of formal gardens. The chapel was placed in a separate building. After Tiffany’s death, the estate fell into disrepair. It had originally cost about $2,000,000 to build. It was sold for $10,000 in 1949 and burned in 1957.

At the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida you can see the restored chapel. It is quite amazing and beautiful. How it was saved and restored by Hugh & Jeannette McKean is part II of our story. Mrs. McKean was born and reared in Chicago.

Wayne Rethford, Past President
Illinois St. Andrew Society

Upcoming Events:

History Club: June 6 
“Bloody Omaha Beach” as we honor those who fought and died on D-Day, 1945. Everyone is invited. Reservations not necessary but helpful. Call 708-447-5092. Coffee and scones as usual.

Highland Games: June 17 & 18
Click here for tickets and information

Help another Piper - We all have our favorite pipers, I suppose if you have need of a piper, you probably know who to call. But, if you don’t, here is a young man looking for opportunities this summer. His name is Austin Wallerstedt and he is a student at Monmouth College on a piping scholarship. He is a “lifetime member of the Chicago Highlanders and will be starting to play with the Greater Midwest Pipe Band in the coming year.” He will be participating at the Highland Games in Milwaukee and our Chicago games in Itasca. If you know of any piping opportunities this summer, his email is