Horwood: A Legacy Deserving Preservation

The Horwood stained glass at the Ottawa Public Library features a muse surrounded by seven well-known authors, poets and playwrights.

The dates in the records may vary, but there can be no doubt about Harry Horwood’s stained-glass legacy north and south of the St. Lawrence River.

Harry Horwood and four brothers born in Mells, England were raised by a widowed mother; a pauper in an 1851 register. Following the moral lessons popular in the 19th century, Harry and two of his brothers pulled themselves out of poverty to become successfully middle class.

The two older brothers, listed as laborers in an early census, may have financially helped their three younger siblings climb the social ladder through education. Regardless, the minister at St. Andrew’s Church in Mells recognized talent in the boys and enrolled them in St. Andrew’s Academy where they learned the glass arts.

Middle brother Harry (1838-1917) and his brothers Edwin (1834-92) and Mark (1840-1904) were described in order as a stainer, a glass painter and a glazier in the 1861 census.

They founded Horwood Brothers in their home town and soon moved to larger premises in Frome, but production ceased in 1881. Glass from this studio still illuminates churches in England.

According to a short history of Horwood Brothers in Sussex, England parish records, Harry Horwood took his stained-glass craftsmanship to North America when he immigrated to Ontario in 1887 (sic).

As early as 1861 Harry traveled to Canada to work with Joseph McCausland of Toronto on the windows for the new Parliament buildings in Ottawa; destroyed by fire in 1916.

McCausland of Toronto, the oldest surviving stained-glass studio in North America, has about 32,000 windows recorded in the firm’s letter books and day books.

In 1864 Harry returned to England to work for a few years with his brothers in the Frome studio. After 1871 his name no longer appears on an English census roll. Harry seems to have gone to New York City in the 1870s to work for the Gibson studio during the business’s fleeting return. William Gibson promoted himself as the “father of glass painting” in the United States.

Around 1834 William Gibson began the earliest known stained-glass business in the United States. His first New York City studio did not last long. Decades later Gibson briefly reopened, in time for Harry to work on the restoration of windows in the Vanderbilt mansion on Central Park West.

Harry moved to open a studio in Ottawa about 1876.Three years later he went to England and returned, after sufficient time, with a wife and at least two sons, Harry James and Clarence.

In 1881, he was contracted to create the windows for Ogdensburg’s new opera house and city hall. He moved Horwood and Sons to Prescott with Ottawa as a branch office. In a business decision common today, rather than pay import taxes to the U.S. and Canada, he opened a new studio across Ford Street from the opera house.

Clarence, who failed to make his fortune in the Yukon gold rush of ’98, ran the Prescott studio until 1912 when he died in Ottawa.

When Harry Horwood died of an illness five-years later in Ottawa, his son Harry James, who operated the Ogdensburg studio, moved the business to the corner of Washington and Paterson Streets.

He continued the business until his death in 1947and is interred with his wife in the Ogdensburg Cemetery. In Ontario, the Blue Church Cemetery west of Prescott is the resting place of many Horwoods.

Horwood talent extended beyond glass; family members played musical instruments and were known to present informal concerts. Son Edgar, an architect of some fame in Canada, designed the long since been demolished Ottawa Public Library. Fortunately the large, decorative Horwood window is preserved in the library’s main downtown branch.

In Northern New York and Eastern Ontario, Horwood stained glass brings light and color into churches, institutions, private homes and beyond in Australia, South Africa, Northern Ireland and England.

The Baptist Church in Ogdensburg and the Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist Churches in Canton have Horwood windows, as do churches in Prescott, Brockville and many more communities either side of the St. Lawrence.

Historian David E. Martin of Black Lake leads the campaign to establish the Horwood Museum to collect, restore, preserve and interpret the windows to the highest museum standards.

He has documented windows numbering into the thousands.

The nonprofit Horwood Museum has a Charter, approval from the New York State Education Department and a 501 (c) 3 registration, providing income-tax deductibility for donors.

With first phase in order, the second is to acquire land on which to construct a museum with ample, environment-controlled storage for the acquisitions. Several windows are currently in safe storage.

Phase three will erect the Horwood Museum to display windows and related artifacts, also windows produced by other artists and studios. Collected materials will be available to researchers and student. Public lectures and presentations are anticipated.

Mr. Martin has photographed the identified Horwood windows in New York and Ontario. Even unsigned windows can be recognized by an experienced eye sensitive to the color and type of glass and other diagnostic clues.

Appreciation for Horwood windows extends into Ontario. Two Harry Horwood windows salvaged from the residence of Prescott distiller J.P. Wiser at the time of the mansion’s demolition in the late 1950s were restored in 2012.

Northern Art Glass of Ottawa undertook the painstaking repairs to the two stained glass windows now displayed with 11 other Horwood windows in Crysler Hall at Upper Canada Village. Northern Art Glass has informative blogs on Horwood glass at northernartglass.com/?s=horwood.

Historical Restorations Foundation in Hannibal, NY is a nonprofit dedicated to historically correct stained-glass restoration. Horwood windows are among the foundation’s work described with photographs by Mr. Martin at historicalrestorations.org/projects/list.html.

Sources: David E. Martin, Horwood Museum President, correspondence and conversation

Windows into Wiser world on display at Upper Canada Village. www.torontosun.com/2011/07/08/windows-into-wiser-world-on-display-at-upper-canada-village

Historical Restorations Foundation. www.historicalrestorations.org

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