May 18, 2023 - News

Tiffany windows once owned by Black church up for auction

A pair of stained glass windows

These rare finds could fetch $250,000 each. Photo Courtesy of Freeman’s.

A rare pair of Tiffany rose windows from a former African American church that were unwittingly sold are set for auction today.

Why it matters: The windows are both an example of Philadelphia’s rich architectural past as well as the pitfalls of preservation battles.

What’s happening: Freeman’s auction house in Philly estimates the two lead-glass round windows that once graced Hickman Temple AME Church in West Philadelphia will sell for as much as $250,000 each.

  • The live auction starts at 11am. Opening bids are set at $75,000 each.

The intrigue: A rose window from arguably America's most famous art glass designer is exceptionally rare to find on the open market — let alone a pair, says Tim Andreadis, Freeman's director of decorative arts and design.

  • Plus: Most Tiffany rose windows are located in historically protected churches.

Context: Late last year Paul Brown, a Lancaster antiques collector, purchased the windows for $6,000 from the church’s new owners, who had intended to destroy them while redeveloping the site.

  • Their Tiffany's provenance wasn't known at the time.

Flashback: The windows could have remained at the church had a push to designate the building a historical site succeeded.

  • The former owners of the church snuffed out that effort by outsiders because of worries it would decrease the property's value for sale offers.

Details: Each intricately made window is nearly 8 feet in diameter with 17 panels of glass.

  • The windows were placed in custom made wooden frames.

1 cool thing: The possession of two Tiffany rose windows by the former church indicates the enormous wealth the congregation had at the time, Andreadis tells Axios.

  • That’s because most Tiffany rose windows were one-offs.

What they’re saying: “We’re not likely to see another [rose window] come to auction,” Andreadis says.

What to watch: The windows could be separated and sold to two different buyers.

  • Whoever purchases them can remain anonymous.
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