MORRISTOWN, NJ - A strikingly detailed stained glass window has taken a circuitous route from the Church of the Redeemer to Acorn Hall, on to Massachusetts for conservation and will then be returned to Acorn Hall, home of the Morris County Historical Society.
It all began when Mary Crane Hone, daughter of a prominent Morristown family, died in 1876. In 1885, her father commissioned John Johnston, a colleague of well known artist John LaFarge to design a stained glass window of St. Cecilia, patron saint of music and musicians. La Farge was prominent as both a painter and designer of stained glass windows. He patented opalescent glass, a technique he shared with Louis Comfort Tiffany, in the 1870s. Johnston’s window was to be hung in The Church of the Redeemer on South Street in Morristown. Crane’s daughter was a great lover of music.
The glass window resided at Redeemer for many years but was eventually donated to the Historical Society, where it has been stored since 1992. According to Executive Director Amy Curry, stained glass window experts who looked at the piece were awestruck. The restoration process, at a cost of $70,000, may take several months to a year. The window is being shipped to Serpentino Stained Glass Studio in Needham, Mass. On its return, the 4 foot by 6 foot window will be displayed in a custom light box. The scene shows St. Cecilia, seated, and holding a musical instrument on her lap.
Dr. Patricia Pongracz, Executive Director of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum in Morristown, said the window will be cleaned and restored. No new materials will be added. She noted that the face of St Cecilia will be clearly revealed as part of the process. When hung, the surrounding frame, reminiscent of blue moonstones, will be more apparent with natural light. The window was on display on the basement floor of Acorn Hall for a select group of visitors on Oct. 15. Dr. Pongracz praised the members of the Morris County Historical Society for their care in preserving the work for so many years, keeping it dry and in a climate controlled location.
St. Cecilia was born in Rome, Italy, in 200-300 a.d. with her feast day celebrated on November 22. She was blind from an early age and it is rumored that her vocal chords never decayed after death. She was arrested and sentenced to death at the age of 27. Her life was one of feeding the hungry, sheltering the needy and burying the dead. She was declared a saint by Pope Urbanto. Despite her fidelity to her bridegroom, Valerian, he agreed to her determination to remain a virgin. It was said that he heard the angels sing and gave her roses, a symbol of love and beauty. A music specialist at the museum said St. Cecelia’s love of music helped introduce music to religious services.
Acorn Hall is located at 68 Morris Avenue. Built in 1853 by John and Louise Schermerhorn of New York City, the style is Italianate Villa. Acorn Hall was named for a 200 year old oak tree that was once on the property. It was sold to Augustus Crane in 1857, who became a Gentleman Farmer on what was a nine acre property. The house was the home of four generations of the Crane and Hone families. Augustus and his wife Mary Elizabeth had four children. Daughter Julia and her husband, Dr. James Leonard Corning, lived there beginning in 1913. They left the home to Augustus Crane Hone. In 1935, a new heating system, indoor plumbing and electricity were installed. His daughter, Mary Crane Hone, was childless and sought for someone to preserve the home. She gave the property to The Morris County Historical Society in 1971. It operates as a museum, with the home’s furnishings dating from the 1860s to the 1880s. Today the six acre property includes a carriage house and grounds leading to the Patriot Path. Once built as a Georgian four square building, four identically sized rooms were built on the first and second floors. Several years ago a $1.5 million renovation included a new slate roof and other extensive repairs. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Merging past and present, the intricate stained glass window of Saint Cecelia has found a treasured and permanent home at Morris County Historical Society’s Acorn Hall