Treasure: Vintage stained glass testimony to early craftsmen

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Old houses can contain unexpected discoveries. Such was the case for Blaine and Sandra Hanna, who purchased a vintage home in one of Detroit’s older neighborhoods and found two pieces of intricate stained glass.

Sandra Hanna with stained glass she found in her home.

The house, located near Trenton, McGraw and Wyoming Streets, was built in 1917, they told appraiser Brian Thomczek at a recent appraisal held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. 

Thomczek praised the craftsmanship, saying that homes in the city built at that time included the expertise and artistry of a generation of Europeans who were coming to the United States. “Works like these take a lot of time to make,” he told them. “They are definitely more than a century old and I would date them to the early 20th century, as the home’s age would support.”

Stained glass was often used as a focal point in early homes, the appraiser pointed out. “These look like a castle, a folly or a statue from a garden,” he said. “Sometimes the subjects were very romantic.”

Each window measures 20 by 16 inches. He said there were some condition issues, but nothing that couldn’t be addressed with conservation.

“There’s a small amount of cracking,” he said, pointing out the areas that needed help. “It’s not the end of the world, and they could be easily fixed. You’re lucky that there isn’t any material loss, as that would complicate things. The leading is in good condition, which is important.”

He added that the pair is definitely worth fixing if they intend to keep them, or even if they intend to sell. He recommended Baxter Glass Art in Grosse Pointe Park as one of the qualified area conservators who would be able to address the issues.

He valued the windows at $750 each retail, less at auction.

It’s a good thing I hung on to them,” Hanna said in reaction to the appraisal. “Someone tried to offer me $400 for the pair a few years ago.”

“It was clearly someone who knew their value,” the appraiser answered. “These are definitely antique and very nicely done. It’s amazing what you can find in those old homes.”

Thomczek said it’s encouraging to see many of the city’s historic homes being renovated. “That neighborhood had so many abandoned homes at the time,” said Hanna. “It’s sad to think about what has been lost.”

“The best way to appreciate stained glass is to hold it up to the light, which was how it was designed to be seen,” the appraiser added. “These have nice colors. When the light comes through, the oranges and blues would really pop.”

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About this item

Item: Stained glass

Owned by: Blaine and Sandra Hanna

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $750 each retail; less at auction