CENTENARY – ITS WINDOWS
Members and friends of Centenary Church are always pleased to “show off” their “jewels” – or windows. Today, we are glad to be sharing them with you as part of the Laurel House Tour sponsored by the Laurel Historical Society, Inc.
The two large sets of three windows each in the sanctuary are signed "Reiths Studio Phila Pa" as well as a set of two windows in the Sunday School room. These signed windows were obviously designed for the "new" building of 1911-1912. However, the 1895 windows from the previous wooden building carry his "jewel" trademark--circles of glass about 2" in diameter cut with facets like a gem. He also used a diamond shape approximately the same size but not cut with facets like the circles. Another characteristic of his work is his use of backgrounds. He often placed standing or sitting figures in front of walls. Trees, bushes, and flowers are also used over and over.
At this time we do not have proof that all of our windows were done by the Stained Glass Artisan William Reith. Conjecture will allow us to say that he was commissioned to do the first windows in 1895, and that our people were pleased with his work and his price--his more costly competitors were Louis Comfort Tiffany and Nicole D'Ascenzo. When more windows were needed wouldn't we turn to one in whom we were well pleased?
Wilhelm Reith was born in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1844.
He was a graduate of the Offenbach Technical School of
Baden-Baden in the specialized area of stained glass manufacturing. He came to the United States at the age of 23 and Americanized his name to William.
In 1874, William and Teresa Reith moved to Philadelphia, and his name is first listed in the Philadelphia City Directory of 1875.
He established his own stained glass manufacturing firm in 1887, and was able to move to a neighborhood of wealth and social status. They raised three sons and four daughters.
He worked in stained glass until his sudden death on June 12, 1913 at the age of 69. Remember, our dedication was on September 22, 1912 – just nine months prior to his death.
A daughter and son-in-law continued the business until 1921. By that time, it was no longer stylish to have stained glass in your home so the remaining business was church commissions. Also, the “jewels” Reith was known for using in his windows and the imports of Bohemian glass were being heavily taxed; completed stained glass windows could be imported at a lower cost.
William Reith, Stained Glass Artisan by Laura A. Young
History of Centenary Methodist Church by E. C. Hallman
Centenary Methodist Church by Mary C. Thomas