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By the Way: Doylestown’s missing stained glass window mystery

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One of the many outstanding features of Doylestown’s handsome James-Lorah Memorial Home is the St. Cecelia stained glass window designed by Willet Stained Glass and Decorating Co. in Philadelphia. It is one of two windows commissioned by a grieving husband and sister.

The windows were ordered by Dr. George Lorah and Sarah James in memory of Martha James Lorah. Martha was the wife of George, who was a minister, and Sarah’s sister. The St. Cecelia design was chosen because Martha had loved music and the saint is the patron of musicians.

Jeanne Sandusky, chairman of the home, which is owned by the Village Improvement Association (VIA), always loved the window but knew nothing of a second memorial.

Jeanne only discovered this when she heard from the archivist at Willet-Hauser Architectural Glass, Willet’s successor in Minnesota, who was updating records and asking if the St. Cecelia window was signed and dated.

Jeanne told her it was. The archivist then inquired about a second window George had ordered picturing the Resurrection, saying she just wanted to document its whereabouts. Jeanne was stunned. She promised to try to help find it.

That window apparently is similar to the sanctuary window at the Cadet Chapel at West Point. Willet had designed that one, too, Jeanne said, winning over Tiffany’s in an international competition. Willet subsequently designed nearly 200 more windows at the military academy.

Jeanne’s hunt for the window has been relentless. She stresses, “We don’t want the physical window, just its whereabouts, and whether it’s signed and dated.”

She found it had been dedicated in 1922 and installed in the old First Baptist Church, which is now the Landmark Building. But the window is no longer there and there’s no record of its disposition.

She then took her quest to the First Baptist Church, now called Living Hope. The archivist at the church on State Street also has no record of the Resurrection window. The current stained glass window at the church depicts the Good Shepherd. Other windows left at the Landmark Building may have included the Resurrection panel and may have been sold. The trail ends there, Jeanne said.

Jeanne thinks someone must know what happened to the window and where it is — stained glass windows don’t just vanish. She has turned to the Herald to help her solve the mystery.

In an effort to do that, we reached out to stained glass artist David Crane at his Plumstead Studios. His gorgeous windows lend color and inspiration to a number of local churches as well as private homes. He’s been designing, restoring, repairing and maintaining stained glass for more than 35 years and has many contacts in the field. So far he’s been unable to trace the lost window but he said he’ll keep trying.

Jeanne has overseen the house since 2019 and knows every inch of the mansion built by Judge Henry Chapman in 1844, She’ll tell you Henry Chapman Mercer was born there 12 years later and that Sarah James, an 1895 charter member of the VIA, left the building to the organization, on her death in 1954. The VIA has lovingly cared for the house museum and its three generations of contents since, and Jeanne hopes someone can shed some light on the missing Resurrection window from the old First Baptist Church.

Reservations for tours of the house are necessary. Themed tours may be scheduled on the second Saturday of the month and on most weekdays by calling 215-348-2187.

Kathryn Finegan Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Durham Township. She can be reached at kathyclark817@gmail.com.


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