Tag Archives: Glass

Spider Web Windows

Sitting on the huge back porch of my parents’ house in York Harbor the other day, I became fixated on the spider web design of the windows of the house next door. This house (unfortunately) blocks quite a bit of our view of the ocean, but is (fortunately) a magnificent creation: large and white and gleaming, with lots of architectural details. It has the appearance of a Colonial Revival house and I know it was built after our Shingle “cottage”, so the dates fit–but the spider web windows do not: they look a little whimsical for this classically-constrained house. I’ve been looking at these web windows my whole life but never really considered them before. Years ago my mother transformed a small window in the front of our house into a stained-glass mosaic in the design of a web; I doubt she was inspired by the web windows in front as a veritable forest existed between that house and ours at that time.

Spider Web Windows 4

Spider Web Windows York

Spider Web Windows 3

Apparently the spider web was a prominent design motif of the Arts and Crafts movement, along with the dragonfly, the firefly and the crane, all indicating the influence of Japanese visual culture in the later Victorian era on both sides of the Atlantic. Just a few minutes of web research brought me to the spider web windows in the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, and more interestingly (to me) to the work of Chicago-era architect R. Harold Zook (1889-1949), who incorporated spider webs motifs in all of his houses and even as his trademark. I had never heard of Zook before: wow!  And just to illustrate how ageless and universal the spider web window can be I’ve included a charming little pane from the Zouche Chapel at York Minster, dating from the late medieval era and encased in a chapel panel in the sixteenth century.

Spider Web Windows Winchester Mystery House

Spider Web Window Zook House

Spider Web Window

Spider Web Zouche Chapel York Minster 16th century

A great site for R. Harold Zooks Houses, both lost and surviving.

Of Wicks and Wiring

Sandwich Glass Whale Oil Lamp, c. 1830-40, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Our house was built in 1827 and “improved” in several phases in the mid- and later nineteenth century, so I’ve chosen period-appropriate lighting throughout in the form of electrified whale-oil, camphrene, and kerosene lamps.  It is relatively easy to find both the antique lamps (so many were made!)  and the requisite wiring kits and do the wiring yourself—remembering to proceed in a “non-invasive” manner as the venerable lady from whom I bought my first lamp instructed me and which several YouTube videos illustrate.  I have both clear and colored-glass lamps,  as well as cut-to-clear and etched examples, but my most prized possessions are those made from pressed glass made at the Sandwich Glass Works (1825-1888) on Cape Cod.

Boston & Sandwich Glass Company Manufactory circa 1830, Sandwich Glass Museum

Some of my lamps are below, with a clear  “heart and moon” Sandwich glass lamp in front.  This is also the earliest lamp; the marble bases and brass columns of the others are indicative of the change from whale oil to kerosene after about 1850.  Kerosene, following the earlier introduction of the cylindrical wick and chimney by the Swiss inventor Ami Argand, really revolutionized the interior lighting industry because it was so much cheaper than whale oil and produced a much brighter light.

As revolutionary as kerosene was, the quest for a cleaner, safer, cheaper, brighter light continued, as illustrated by this 1860 advertisement from the Salem Gazette and ultimately leading to electric lighing.

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