Monday, December 10, 2012

Tiffany Studios’ Wade Memorial Chapel, Cleveland, Ohio 1901

A few weeks back I visited the Wade Memorial Chapel in Cleveland.  It is one of the relatively few intact interior spaces designed and executed by Tiffany Studios.  And it’s a good one!  It definitely won me over.
The chapel, on the grounds of Lake View Cemetery, was built in 1901 in honor of Jeptha Wade, the Cleveland businessman who founded Western Union Telegraph Company.
The first element of the chapel constructed was the window on the north wall, which depicts The Flight of Souls.  It was displayed by Tiffany in the firm’s exhibit at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, where it won a gold medal.

The chapel, though it has a certain monumentality, is a small space, with only four rows of pews separated by a center aisle.  The chapel was intended to be used for funeral services--that spot front and center is for a casket (though today the chapel is also used for weddings).

The side walls are covered by huge Favrile glass mosaics designed by Frederick Wilson.  The left wall depicts the prophecy and laws of the Old Testament and the right wall shows the fulfillment of those prophesies through Christianity.   Each measures 32 feet long by 8 feet high.
Detail of the floor mosaic
Detail of the inlaid mosaic on the end of each pew
The architecture (by local firm Hubbell and Benes) is fairly generic and definitely plays second fiddle to the decorative scheme.
Generally, I’m more a fan of earlier Tiffany works from the creative time when the historical precedent was a bit more difficult to nail down.  But the Wade Chapel has a pleasing Beaux-Arts classicism to it, much in the vein of McKim, Mead and White--all white marble, bronze and shimmering mosaic.
Travel tips:  Be sure to call ahead to make sure the chapel is open before visiting--visit the cemetery's website here.  Hours can be limited and varied depending on services and the time of year.  Also, the cemetery is near Case Western Reserve University and Hospital and traffic in the middle of the day was a nightmare in the neighborhood--factor that into your schedule.  The Cleveland Museum of Art is nearby as well. 

© All text and images are copyright of Jeni Sandberg

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