Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where Was the Bolton Family Cottage Where Stained Glass Windows Were Created?

William Jay Bolton was a son of the Reverend Robert Bolton, founder of Christ Church and owner of the Bolton Priory, built in 1838.  The Bolton Priory, in Pelham Manor, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

William Jay Bolton was an exceptional artist eventually admitted to the National Academy of Design.  He taught himself the art of stained glass by creating a few small panels for the windows of the Priory.

"WILLIAM JAY BOLTON, A. N. A. 1816-1884"

Assisted by his brother, John Bolton, William Jay Bolton created a masterpiece of stained glass art for Christ Church.  The masterpiece, entitled "Adoration of the Magi," is America's first figured stained glass window.  The window may still be seen in today's Christ Church.

"Adoration of the Magi," America's First Figural Stained
Glass Window.  Created by William Jay Bolton for
Christ Church, Pelham Manor, NY.

William Jay Bolton's stained glass window work was so exceptional that he parlayed it into a business that he pursued for many years here and, later, in England.  Bolton created a small stained glass art studio in a cottage on the east side of Shore Road (known as Pelham Road in New Rochelle) a few hundred yards north of Shore Road's intersection with Pelhamdale Avenue.  He and his brother, John, created forty spectacular stained glass windows for Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights.  

The cottage studio has long since been razed.  The photograph of the cottage below was taken before 1930.  It shows a tiny little two story cottage with a fireplace and a lean-to section that appears to have been added, at some point, in the rear of the structure.

Bolton Cottage Used by William Jay Bolton as a Stained Glass Studio
During the Mid-19th Century, Since Razed.  Source:  Courtesy of the
Office of the Historian of the Town of Pelham.

For many, many years after the cottage was razed, bits of colored glass could still be found in the area where the structure once stood.  Precisely where it stood, however, has been the subject of some debate in recent years.  

A map of the area prepared in 1853, however, seems to resolve the issue.  A detail from the map appears immediately below.

Detail of Map Prepared in 1853 Showing the Priory and Christ
Church in the Lower Left with Shore Road Proceeding Toward
the Upper Right.  In the Upper Right, Across from Neptune
Island Off the Shore of New Rochelle is a Reference to the
Bolton Cottage.  Source:  Dripps, Matthew & Conner, R.F.O.,
Southern Part of West-Chester County N. Y. (1853) (Museum
of the City of New York, No. 29.100.2628).

Careful analysis of the map detail suggests that the cottage was located roughly at the northwest corner of today's intersection of Pelham Road and "Glen Island Approach" (the roadway that crosses Neptune Island and leads to Glen Island).  Apartment buildings and small multi-family dwellings exist in the area today.

It is difficult to imagine today, but some of the most exceptional and beautiful American stained glass windows of the 19th century were created in the little Bolton cottage that once stood at this location.

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At 8:19 PM, Blogger Sue Swanson said...

Many years ago I was on a tour of old Trinity Church in lower Manhattan and the tour guide pointed out "the first figured stained glass window in America." I quietly took him aside after the tour and set him straight.

Sue Swanson


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