"Knock and it shall be opened unto you." This verse from St. Matthew not only serves as the biblical text for The Lafayette Window inside The Washington Memorial Chapel, but also as a metaphor for what the Chapel has come to represent to those who call it "home".
Currently undergoing the first phase of a nearly $4.5 million restoration, the Chapel in Valley Forge has announced that its latest project, and perhaps one of its most important, is the restoration of the Lafayette Window.
The extensive process is being done by the acclaimed Beyer Studio in Philadelphia, an award-winning stained glass studio specializing in design and fabrication of architectural stained glass, as well as the restoration of historic stained glass windows.
The process is being sponsored by the Huguenot Society of Pennsylvania as one of the medallions in the window shows the granting of the franchise to the Huguenot immigrants in Charleston in 1697. A symbol of freedom and early immigration in the U.S., the Lafayette Window is also known as the "Window of Settlement" because it chronicles the early colonization of America.
The window features 12 medallions, each one depicting a separate significant event in the settlement of America and highlighting the variety of religious beliefs and ethnic makeup of the early settlements. The window, like all 13 windows in the Chapel, was designed and executed by Nicola D'Ascenzo, a Philadelphia stained glass artist who himself immigrated from Italy in the 1880s.
According to Joseph K. Beyer, owner of Beyer Studio, parts of this window were restored in the 1960s or ‘70s but much of the leading that holds all of the thousands of pieces of glass together is original from the 1920s and is now very weak. Also, during the previous work, the outer-most border of glass was eliminated, mostly out of convenience.
"Forty years ago, the attitude toward preserving windows was very different. We are now putting that missing border back around both of the tall lancets", Beyer said. " We have available to us original photographs that were taken of the windows when they were created, which allows us to restore the window as authentically as possible."
"Beyer Studio, thanks to the generosity of the Color Guard of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution, has already restored the John Paul Jones Window of the Revolution, and they did a magnificent job", says Gardiner Pearson, President of the Washington Memorial Heritage. "We are looking forward to seeing the Lafayette Window in place and restored to its former glory as well. We hope that the beauty of these two restored windows will inspire other donors to step forward to help restore the remaining 11."
The Chapel's restoration work has focused on sealing the building envelope against the water intrusion that allowed water to run down the inside walls during heavy rains, especially around the Lafayette Window. The urgent repairs are now complete and work will soon begin on repointing the exterior stonework.
For more information about The Washington Memorial Chapel, visit http://wmchapel.org/heritage/ and http://www.savewashingtonmemorial.org/ to learn about the campaign.
For more information about Beyer Studio, visit http://www.beyerstudio.com/about.php
About The Washington Memorial Chapel
The Washington Memorial Chapel was built as a tribute to General George Washington and the Continental soldiers who survived the brutal winter cantonment at Valley Forge in 1778-1779. The inspiration for the Chapel resulted from a sermon preached by the founder and first rector, the Rev. Dr. W. Herbert Burk, of Norristown, Pennsylvania. In June 1903 the cornerstone was laid on private property donated by the I. Heston Todd family. A small framed building preceded the present structure which became known as the Theodore Roosevelt Chapel, in honor of President Roosevelt, who visited the site in 1904. The Chapel was completed in 1917. It is the home of an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Designed by Philadelphia architect Milton B. Medary, Jr., the Chapel was erected for two purposes; to be a place of worship and a memorial to George Washington, the Continental Army and the Founders. Today, It is the home of an active parish that takes seriously its role as a national memorial to Washington and the Continental Army, welcoming visitors from all over the world and serving as a "wayside chapel" for those who visit Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Both the Chapel and the Washington Memorial Heritage are private organizations. Visitors are often surprised to learn that the Chapel receives no funding from the National Park Service and is not formally affiliated with the Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Washington Memorial Heritage was created as a secular nonprofit, independent of the Chapel. It is a qualifying charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. This allows foundations and individuals who might not contribute to a purely religious organization to aid in the preservation of this magnificent building, which has been described as one of the foremost examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the United States.