Plan a visit to the 1890 House Museum on a sunny afternoon and find yourself bathed in a kaleidoscope of rainbows.
The architectural treasure is located in the heart of downtown Cortland, built for the late 19th-century inventor and industrialist, Chester Wickwire. Those who venture in will be treated to ornate decorative stenciling, parquet flooring, and oak and cherry woodwork, but it is the jewel-stained glass windows that caught our eye this visit.
Waves of blue and purple, swirls of color, and ornate scenery create magnificent works of functional art. Walk the 30-room, gothic revival Victorian mansion and see the light filter through, creating dazzling patterns that dance across the floor.
While the home's decor, its windows, and stenciling were all designed under the artful eye of J.B. Tiffany & Co, the windows themselves were created by Belcher Glass Co.
Stained glass artist, Henry Belcher, produced incredible stained glass windows using a unique, patented process he dubbed "mosaic". His technique held at least four patents. In place of the traditional grouting approach, Belcher's method involved using a mold. He assembled small pieces of glass within it—"not larger than one-half-inch across"—creating his design. He then arranged the larger pieces, fabricating an esthetic frame. Once the design was complete, the entire mosaic was sandwiched between two pieces of asbestos, and the liquid lead was carefully poured in. The molten metal would slowly fill in the gaps between the glass, cementing the mosaic into its final window form.
The innovative approach allowed Belcher to create mosaic windows of unparalleled complexity and radiance. This is especially evident in the east entrance doors. These doors were designed to usher guests, arriving by carriage, into the house- and set a precedence for the beauty within. Sadly, his work fell out of favor over time, as his technique made it difficult to repair. The 1890 House Museum is one of the few places one can appreciate such an extensive collection of his surviving works.
To book your own technicolor stained glass window tour or learn more information, visit The1890House.org.
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