Book pays homage to city’s stained glass wonders

At Kilgore Chapel at Valley Presbyterian Church, the 350 degrees of stained glass took three years to complete. The installation comprises 35,000 pieces of 110 different colors of glass.

“What I want you to do is walk up to the podium; don’t look back,” said southern Scottsdale resident Robert Breen, gesturing to the front of Kilgore Chapel at Valley Presbyterian Church.

 “Now look back at that.”

Above, the sun’s rays beamed through the 350 degrees of stained glass; hues of yellows, oranges, blues, purples, reds and green engulf the brightly lit, now color-saturated chapel.

Kilgore Chapel was one of four stops on a stained-glass artwork tour with Breen throughout the Scottsdale area—all four of which are mentioned in detail in Breen’s recently published book, “Scottsdale Glass Art Studio.”

Published in February, “Scottsdale Glass Art Studio” details the history of stained glass, the different types of stained glass, the history of Scottsdale and background information about the Glassart Studio.

It also pinpoints several structures in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley that feature well-preserved stained glass art installations.

These include Scottsdale City Hall, Old Adobe Mission, the aforementioned Kilgore Chapel at Valley Presbyterian Church and Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), which is currently under construction.

Breen swings the door open to the OLPH church.

“It’s got that great feeling of welcome,” he said, taking a moment to admire the colorful, illuminated artwork throughout the church, from the decorative doors to the six abstract glass art lining the sides of the church.

“Here, you’ve got the stained glass, which one of my friends calls the Eye of God,” Breen said, gesturing above to the stained glass designed in the 1970s by Maureen McGuire, who specializes in liturgical stained glass. 

This particular project inside OLPH, however, is faceted glass that is 3/4 to 2 inches thick and chipped with a special tool to heighten the light-scattering properties of the glass, Breen writes.

“They’re abstract and meant to do a number of things: illuminate the cross when the sun comes at the right place and reflect the design of the church, with all the triangles,” Breen tells the Progress.

Breen completed the manuscript for “Scottsdale Art Glass Studio” a year ago but spent five years interviewing over 45 people for the book, including docents of the Little Red School House and Old Adobe Mission.

“I wanted to write it originally because what I want to show people the architectural system of people working together and how these people work together,” he said.

In “Scottsdale Art Glass Studio,” Breen writes in his prologue that the book is a “glimmer into the people who gave their art and life to faceted glass and architecture.”

“It is an insight that we hope will transcend time as you view the work, people, their ideas through words and photos to get at the essence of craftsmen designers and architects as they work together — and sometimes not — to give you their vision,” he continued.

Currently, the book is available for sale on Amazon and at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West: Western Spirit (SMoW).

It was also recently featured at the Scottsdale Heritage Collection (SHC) VIP ribbon cutting ceremony in June.

The SHC is located inside the Civic Center Library, and Breen said the book will be included as part of its collection.

Breen — a Scottsdale resident for 20 years, father of three sons and an avid golfer before he went blind — understands the level of collaboration the projects detailed in the book takes.

He spent 60 years in the industry working alongside architects and engineers.

“The whole story of these buildings are architecturally interesting,” he said. “There are all sorts of connections between the buildings and people and things that were happening at the time.”

The next stop on the Breen-guided tour was Scottsdale City Hall.

“This was Bennie [Gonzales] at his best,” Breen said at the entrance of the building designed by Gonzales.

Inside, however, the faceted glass trapezoidal skylights that juxtapose the beige and white interior walls were designed by Glidden Parker and installed by Glassart Studios.

“[The stained glass] feels very modern for the time period,” Breen said.

Especially during peak tourism season, City Hall sees visitors from all over the world every day of the week who come in to view the skylights. 

They will even pull out a 10-pound chunk of green-hued stained glass for visitors to hold and marvel at.

Stop No. 3 was Old Adobe Mission, where most of the stained glass were sourced from churches in Tucson, according to Facility Manager Rad Masinelli. 

Old Adobe Mission features 15 panels total completed in 1933 by Bernabe Herrera.

Leading up to Old Adobe Mission’s restoration in 2003, the Mission was used by different community organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, the Boy Scouts and the Scottsdale Symphony, which used the space for rehearsals. 

“They came in [in 1977], they took the stained glass windows out, paneled the walls,” Masinelli said.

In December 2002, Board Member at the time Nick Rader located the removed stained glass windows at Don Shupes Glass Works in Phoenix. 

Two years later, in April 2004, owner of Don Shupes Glass Works Ron Olson was contracted to restore the windows and completed the glass restoration project in October 2006.

“He took them all apart and put them all back together again; however, one was so badly damaged that it couldn’t be repaired. So, he created the two panels that don’t match the others that are here,” Masinelli explained.

Further north in Paradise Valley is Breen’s favorite installation of the four: the aforementioned Kilgore Chapel at Valley Presbyterian Church.

“This has something that’s hard to beat. It’s absolutely gorgeous; the concept is unreal,” he said.

The glass art installation — a project that took three years to complete — is comprised of 35,000 pieces of 110 different colors of glass. 

Each of the eight windows is a staggering 10-feet by 20-feet, weighs over one ton and had to be hand-installed on scaffolds to match perfectly with the panels next to it.

The designers were Bob and Louise McCall, and the faceted window fabricator was Glassart Studio’s Joe Lupkin, who died in 2014.

Glassart Studio’s presence and impact on the Scottsdale community and the art installations seen today, including at FnB Restaurant at Craftsmen Court in Old Town, are heavily emphasized by Breen in “Scottsdale Glass Art Studio.”

At FnB, a Parker-faceted glass can be seen over the bar, and on the exterior of the building are ’70s ceramic panels.

Looking ahead, Breen would like to release a “museum edition” of the book that would include Canterbury Cathedral.