A childhood church treasure reclaimed

While everyone else was off at the cabin or taking leisurely walks this summer, Amanda Anderson spent her weekends in the un-air-conditioned Aldersgate United Methodist Church building off Hwy. 100 in St. Louis Park. As cars zipped by, she and a small crew could be found inside, dripping with sweat, carefully rescuing 15 stained-glass windows from the building, which has since been demolished to make way for a housing development.

Growing up, Anderson attended the church and has long had an affinity for the space as well as its stained-glass windows, with a primary color scheme of striking reds, yellows and turquoise.

Anderson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in sustainability from Yale University, grew to appreciate the joys of reclaiming art and architecture to make way for new things. So when she learned the church she attended as a child would relocate and the building would be torn down, it was in her wheelhouse to save the one-of-a-kind stained glass.

“These are the ones that sat on either side of the sanctuary, so they were most visible to anyone coming into the space,” Anderson said.

She sought — and was granted permission — to salvage the windows. After bringing in a team that specialized in extracting stained glass, the windows were removed. Anderson’s next step will be to find homes for the pieces by auctioning them and donating the proceeds.

Part of a design movement

According to Aldersgate church records, the windows were created by Eugene Marggraff, an artist who studied stained glass design in Vienna. The windows were designed in the Dalle de Verre (“slab glass” in French) style of cemented stained glass.

“The method was popularized in Europe after World War II, so it’s definitely a part of the midcentury modern design movement,” Anderson said. The artist’s statement, provided to the 1950 church when the windows were added to the space in 1971, describes the windows as “color in motion, creating a fourth dimension in space” while also bearing a “childlike quality” of strong, colored shapes.

Anderson herself was attracted to that “childlike quality” of the windows when she was a young girl. “I recall being compelled to touch the glass, which was so thick that it protruded from the matrix that surrounded it and had colors as vibrant as hard candy,” she said. “I spent hours just roaming that building, and those windows were a huge part of shaping me and helping me understand the joys of stillness, quiet and being within my own mind.”

To remove the windows, Anderson received help from her father, husband and teenaged children. She also relied on the services of Joshua Tollefson and his dad, David, of JDT Stained Glass. “The windows were ridiculously hard to remove,” she said.

Repurposing with purpose

Eight windows, each of which measures about 3 by 4 feet, will be sold in a charity auction this month.

The funds from the auction will benefit nonprofits Simpson Housing Services, providing housing and resources for those experiencing homelessness, and Bridging, assisting with furniture and household items for those pursuing housing stability.

Anderson has teamed with Karen Woyak of Retro Wanderlust, the Texa-Tonka midcentury resale shop in St. Louis Park, for the auction. Currently, one of the windows is on display at the store to give an idea of the size, weight and scope of the pieces. Anderson plans to start the bidding at $400, which was the cost to remove each panel. Any money raised beyond that will be split between the two charities.

“Because they’re so rare, it’s difficult to put a price on them,” she said. “I want to get them to homes where they’ll be loved, so even if they’re purchased by someone outside of the Twin Cities, I will happily crate them up and send them anywhere they need to go.”

Anderson said the pieces would make great displays indoors or outdoors.

“They are pretty massive, so one would certainly be enough. One of the church’s parishioners put a single panel in her garden, and some folks have expressed interest in creating a diptych as part of a symmetrical garden space,” she said.

Anderson set aside a few panels for her own yard in Eden Prairie. The five-panel set sits next to a gazebo that was built expressly for the purpose of providing a space to sit and enjoy the windows. To create the garden installation, Anderson’s husband Josh, built frames for the windows, using upright metal pipes that go down 2 feet below the frost layer.

“It’s a peaceful, private space for us to enjoy,” she said.

But she urges potential bidders to think about indoor displays, also. “Because they’re incredibly heavy, you’ll need to make sure each piece is well-secured. I could see them working beautifully in open lofted spaces, or in a home with an open floor plan,” Anderson suggested. “They could be a nice break between rooms, almost like a room divider.”

Finally, she’s adamant that these windows need light to be truly appreciated. She’s installed spotlights in her own garden to show them off at night. For indoor uses, she suggested installing string lighting and securing it to a wall behind the windows.

“They really come alive when the light shines through them,” Anderson said.

Julie Kendrick is a Minneapolis-based writer. Follow her on Twitter at @KendrickWorks.