If you haven't visited the Ypsilanti Historical Society Museum recently then you may not be aware of the treasure that awaits you. In early spring the museum exhibited its recently restored one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old Tiffany window in the museum's library. The museum library is a perfect location to showcase the window because the window's original location was the Starkweather Ladies Library building on North Huron Street in Ypsilanti.
During the early 1970s the city was proposing the idea of urban renewal throughout the downtown and current historic district located along North Huron Street. The City's plan for urban renewal threatened to raze many of the historic homes and buildings along North Huron Street, including the Starkweather Ladies Library building, later the Ypsilanti Public Library, located at 130 North Huron Street.
The Starkweather Ladies Library building was at risk of demolition and historical preservation proponents, who were fighting to save the historic buildings, began preservation efforts by boarding up the windows and covering architectural ornamentations. The Tiffany window in the second floor of the Starkweather Ladies Library was damaged by vandals who were throwing rocks and other debris at it from the roadside. Local preservationists from the Ypsilanti Historical Society were determined to save the window from vandals and from the planned demolition. Four determined men removed the window from the second story of the Ladies Library and cautiously carried the four-by-seven foot window down North Huron Street to the Ypsilanti Historical Museum located at 220 North Huron Street. In an interview with Mrs. Kathryn Howard and Mrs. Nathalie Edmunds, the four courageous men given credit for saving the window were Mr. La-Verne Howard, Dr. William Edmunds, Mr. Bill Edmunds, and Mr. Court Sniedecor.
After the window was carefully moved to the Ypsilanti Historical Museum, it was placed in the second floor hallway of the museum. The window was bowing from age and some of the glass had been damaged by vandals. It was obvious that it would be necessary to stabilize the window to prevent further damage. According to Mrs. Kathryn Howard, Mr. Alan Stewart and his son constructed a new frame for the window and anchored the window against the wall in the Craft Room where it rested for over thirty-five years.
Over the past few years the ownership of the window has been disputed by City officials and YHS Board members. When the Society purchased the Museum and Archives property last fall the ownership dispute was settled by a negotiated Charitable and Educational Trust Agreement between the two parties. The Trustee of the Trust Agreement is the Ypsilanti Historical Society but the ownership of the window will revert to the City if the YHS ceases to exist or if the window is not prominently displayed for the public to view.
In early spring of this year, the one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old window was beautifully restored to all of its grace and glory. Thompson Art Glass Studios, a glass company from Brighton certified to work with Tiffany windows, completed a three-month restoration on the window which required a team of experts to disassemble, clean, and rebuild the window. Mr. Denis Schmiedeke, a retired architect, designed the cabinet in which the window is displayed. Mr. Don Randazzo, a restoration carpenter, constructed the fine wood cabinet. Mr. Ron Rupert, a paint specialist, selected the appropriate stain and finished the wood cabinet. Dr. Gerry Jennings, EMU Emeritus Professor, provided the electrical hook-ups for the back-lighting and shelf displays.
Mrs. Kathryn Howard expressed her thoughts of the window, “It's more beautifully shown than it ever was. We need to glorify the museum with treasures and histories of the city. The Tiffany window is a treasure of the city for the public to enjoy at the museum.”
The Tiffany glass window is on display in the library of the Ypsilanti Historical Society Museum. The facade of the window prominently reads: Starkweather Library Building.
References:•Mrs. Kathryn Howard-oral interview May 2007
•Mrs. Nathalie Edmunds-telephone interview June 2007
•Dr. Alvin Rudisill — oral interview June 2007
•Ypsilanti Historical Society Archives