by Pete Mazzaccaro
As part of its continuing series on houses of worship in Chestnut Hill, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society welcomed community members to the Epiphany Chapel at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for a lecture by Mt. Airy historian George Bryant on the building’s 100-year-old stained-glass windows.
Epiphany Chapel was designed in 1904 by the architecture firm Duhring, Okie and Ziegler, four years after Chestnut Hill Academy took over what had been Henry Houston’s Wissahickon Inn, a summer retreat for Center City residents in late 19th century Chestnut Hill.
The chapel also has been the home of Cresheim Valley Church, which has worshiped there since 2009.
Bryant discussed the chapel’s three main stained-glass windows, which were designed by the noted English artist Henry Holiday at the behest of George Woodward, a Houston heir who was on the board of directors of Chestnut Hill Academy at the time.
In an interesting letter from Woodward to friends, written in 1910, Woodward recommended Holiday over Louis Comfort Tiffany, concluding that Tiffany was, “apt, I think, to fail on the spiritual side.” Holiday’s work, Woodward said, was beautiful.
Bryant explained to the audience how the Epiphany Chapel’s windows, which Woodward first commissioned in 1905, represent a high point in Holiday’s artistic abilities, with themes and images that had been adapted from work Holiday had previously performed for churches in New York City, Albany and Washington D.C. His work was highly detailed, showing influences from his contemporaries and friends in the Pre-Raphaelite movement that favored realism, even in the depiction of religious themes.
Following the presentation, attendees were treated to two songs by Mt. Airy tenor Justin Hopkins, a congregant of Cresheim Valley Church.
The Chestnut Hill Historical Society’s houses of worship lecture series will continue at 3 p.m.Sunday, April 12, at the Seventh Day Adventist Church at 8700 Germantown Ave.
A full-text scholarly article by Bryant about Holiday’s windows at Epiphany Chapel can be found at issuu.com/chevet50/docs/holiday_woodward