Archives For stained glass

Visitors to the Driehaus Museum often cite the gallery as a favorite room with its marvelous stained glass dome and massive wood-burning fireplace. Lined with lacquered cherry bookcases and featuring an iridescent mosaic tile Art Nouveau surround, it is the one room in the mansion that was completely redecorated in 1901 thanks to the second owner, Lucius George Fisher Jr.Gallery, The Richard H. Driehaus Museum_Photo by Alexander Vertikoff, 2011

Perhaps Fisher wanted to put his own stamp on the Nickerson’s distinctive décor? Or did he just want a grand showcase for his collection of rare books and hunting memorabilia? Whatever his reasons, he hired one of the great Prairie School architects of the day, George Washington Maher.

George W. Maher

George W. Maher

Maher was born in Mill Creek, West Virginia in 1864. But by the age of thirteen he was living in Chicago and apprenticed to the architectural firm of Bauer and Hill. Thanks to the Fire of 1871, Chicago had become a center for innovative building design. After a stint with Joseph Silsbee where he worked as a draughtsman alongside Frank Lloyd Wright, Maher opened his own firm in 1888. Influenced by the styles of H. H. Richardson and Louis Sullivan, Maher’s houses reflect the “form follows function” dictum associated with Sullivan’s work. But while fellow architect Wright would follow the elaborate ornamentation of Sullivan’s cursive elements, Maher would eventually lean towards the Arts and Crafts movement in the houses he designed.

ely house

Ely House, Kenilworth, Illinois

hart house

Hart House, Kenilworth, Illinois

roe house


Beginning in 1893 with his own home in the northern suburb of Kenilworth, Maher went on to design forty distinctive houses there as well as several homes in Chicago’s historic Hutchinson Street District in Uptown. At the same time, he became allied with the developer of the Edgewater community on Chicago’s lakefront, producing a series of homes that still stand today on Sheridan Road.

pleasant home oak park

Pleasant Home, Oak Park, Illinois

But the most influential commission Maher would receive was from John Farson. The house now known as Pleasant Home in Oak Park, Illinois would establish the tenets of Prairie School design for posterity. Its success was copied time and again by other architects of the period.

At the same time, Maher was developing a unified design concept known as the Motif-Rhythm Theory. By incorporating an element in both the exterior and interior of the building—say a local plant, a geometric shape—he created some kind of decorative element throughout that ties the whole project together.

Maher Coffee Set

Maher silver coffee set.

Not only did Maher create plans for innovative and beautiful homes, he designed furniture, lamps, silverware and stained glass.

Many of his houses have distinctive windows that either he drew or commissioned from other firms such as Giannini and Hilgart, Healy and Millet, and Tiffany Studios.

Tiffany Window Winona National Bank

Maher designed Tiffany Window Winona National Bank

So the next time you visit the gallery, take a look at the detailed thistle frieze below the glass dome and the unifying design of the room with its carved lion heads by disciple and architect Robert Seyfarth. Take a moment to savor the genius of a unique artist, someone very much ahead of his time.


vreeland_bookclub_groupThe Tiffany Girls faced their toughest critic since the old master himself during a recent twilight tour at the Driehaus Museum. Susan Vreeland, author of the acclaimed bestselling novel, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, was the featured speaker at the Driehaus Winter Book Club this March. She also gave two lectures at the museum on the Women’s Department at Tiffany Studios. Vreeland provided some valuable insights as she accompanied “Clara Driscoll” and “Agnes Northrop” on a historic reenactment through their temporary studio and showroom in the Nickerson Mansion.


Set in 1899, Clara and Agnes are preparing to enter their designs in the 1900 Exposition Universalle in Paris. Guests on the tour are invited to take roles as potential customers. Ms. Vreeland was handed the part of an English aristocrat and played it rather convincingly. She demanded answers about the techniques used to create the myriad effects associated with the fabrication of Tiffany lamps. Vreeland’s visit to Chicago was timed to coincide with Women’s History Month as well as to tour the exhibition: Louis Comfort Tiffany, Treasures from the Driehaus Collection. In her novel, Vreeland recreates the fin de siecle with its tempestuous labor struggles and the nascent women’s rights movement. Her book describes the strivings of young women artists who found gainful employment in Louis Comfort Tiffany’s New York studios alongside their grudging male counterparts.

“Remember to emphasize that this was a very diverse group of women,” Vreeland advised. “Some of the workers had formal art training while others who showed a certain predilection for the tasks had to be instructed in the selection and cutting of the glass by Clara herself.” “There were many languages spoken and the women represented a range of the immigrant population.”

Susan Vreeland with the "Tiffany Girls"

Susan Vreeland with the “Tiffany Girls”

She found the two actresses who portrayed Clara and Agnes to be both charming and very knowledgeable about their respective roles.

Ms. Vreeland read a portion of her novel in Roland Nickerson’s bedroom, pausing at Driscoll’s Wisteria Lamp to deliver a message on beauty and design. Later in an impromptu question and answer session, she fielded queries about her research, writing methods and the plot of her newest novel, Lisette’s List to the group.

“I write on a lap top,” she said. “Multiple drafts.”

Book signing following the group discussion

Book signing following the group discussion

Many questions centered on the betrothal and subsequent disappearance of Clara Driscoll’s second fiancé, social reformer, Edwin Waldo. In the book, the couple travels to Lake Geneva to mark their engagement. Although seemingly happy, Edwin suddenly and mysteriously disappears. He would resurface many years later without explanation. Vreeland speculated that he might have had some form of mental illness. Apparently he would vanish again after relocating to California. But she emphasized his sincere desire to help elevate the status of workers. Clara Driscoll was deeply influenced by his passion for reform. Vreeland suggests that Driscoll adopted some of Waldo’s methods when she marched her female employees arm in arm to storm a picket set up by the Glass Cutter’s Union.

When asked about the details of Edwin and Clara’s relationship, Vreeland replied that this is where researchers hit a wall. She was forced to speculate on the events their honeymoon trip blending what little information there was available with the fiction writer’s art.


What was her favorite piece in the Driehaus exhibit? She loves the Peony Lamp which is on display in Samuel Nickerson’s bedroom.

tiffanygirls_deskExperience the Tiffany Girls Tour

  • Saturdays and Sundays in March. at 4 p.m.
  • First and Third Tuesdays in April, May, and June at 6:30 p.m.
  • Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays beginning June 25th at 5:30 p.m.

Adults $18; Youth (10-17 years) $8

Ticket includes Museum general admission.


Photo credit: Marcin Cymmer


window sketch_feature

Cyrus H. McCormick was many things. A native Virginian who became one of Chicago’s great industrialists, he was also a famous penny-pincher, generous philanthropist, stolid Presbyterian, and  patent hound. He moved to Chicago in 1847, where he set up the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company factory and prospered.

His oldest son, Cyrus Hall McCormick II, was born on May 16, 1859 and became President of the McCormick Harvesting and Machine Company begininng in 1884.  Word is that Cyrus took little leisure time, but he did manage to begin courting Harriet Bradley Hammond, who had moved from Massachusetts to Chicago in 1875, at the age of 12. The pair got away to Monterey, California, to marry in 1889 at St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea, then spent a few weeks honeymooning in Hawaii and the rest of the summer in Europe.

Harriet Bradley Hammond

Harriet Bradley Hammond

They were together in Chicago until Harriet died in January of 1921. She was buried in Graceland, and after the services Cyrus contacted Tiffany Studios, by then a well-known and established company for private commissions. He requested an ecclesiastical window to be designed in her honor, and Tiffany—just a year away from retirement—signed off on this Foxglove design.

window sketch

Designs for McCormick Windows – Watercolor Sketch

The resulting windows, completed in 1922, Cyrus donated to St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea. They survive there today in memory of this Chicago titan’s first love.



Read on for a discussion with Nickerson lecturer Rolf Achilles about stained glass history, the differences between Catholic and Protestant church windows, and where you can see the best examples of American glass in Chicago.

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Take a look at the oriel window at the Driehaus Museum through an architectural lens.

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Today on the blog, we’re pointing you to art historian Rolf Achilles and his beautiful article on stained glass published last week on Vintage and Modern’s DESIGNinTELL.

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