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  • Tom Rigdon

San Francisco Columbarium Stained Glass, Part 1

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

Shows a window with a central circular piece which holds three angels. The borders are made up of an intricate scroll work design
Beautifully restored angels

The Hyland Studio recently completed a large project at the San Francisco Columbarium. The project included the creation of new stained glass windows, new stained glass skylights and lay-lights and the restoration of stained glass dating back over 100 years old.

This will be a short series of articles regarding the stained glass work we completed. It was a project that we enjoyed very much. Our artistic, engineering and restoration abilities were all challenged and we always enjoy that.

First, a little history about the San Francisco Columbarium.

A Columbarium is a repository for human ashes. The San Francisco Columbarium is located at 1 Loraine Ct in San Francisco. It was built in 1898 as a part of the 167 acre Odd Fellows Cemetery. In 1902 burials were no long permitted in San Francisco. By 1910, cremation was also outlawed. The cemetery was re-located to Colma and is today the Green Lawn Cemetery. The only remaining structure of the original Odd Fellows Cemetery is the San Francisco Columbarium building. It is located at the end of a residential street.

The ownership changed several times through the years but essentially it was abandoned and left to deteriorate until the Neptune Society purchased it and began restorations in 1980. Today it is known as the Neptune Society Columbarium of San Francisco.  You can learn much more about the Columbarium and its history on the internet, just search San Francisco Columbarium.

For more information about the Columbarium, see the Wikipedia Article

This Article is regarding one small portion of the stained glass restoration that we provided. Specifically, one of the windows we restored, we called it The Three Angels.

We initially thought this window might have been an original Tiffany due to the age and style, not to mention the incredible workmanship. The use of layered stained glass seen in this window was a common style used by Tiffany. Even though it was not a Tiffany, the story that unfolded was a very interesting one.

The Designer was a fellow named Harry Ryle Hopps, the glazier was E. B. Wiley.  Mr. Hopps was born in 1869. We know that he was an owner of “United Glass Art Co.” located at 115 Turk St in San Francisco (a short walk to the Columbarium).

The Three Angels window was built in 1909. Three years after the 1906 earthquake, 7 years after the 1902 cemetery re-location began and one year before cremation was banned in the city which led to the eventual abandonment of the building.

Interestingly, we found that a few years later, Mr. Hopps moved to Hollywood and became the Art Director in films starring Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. 

The worst deterioration of this window was simply due to gravity. Over the last 100+ years, the weight of the glass and lead had caused extensive bulging in the lower portion. Our project was to remove the entire window and transfer it to our studio without causing any further damage, dis-assemble and re-build it as needed and then return and install it.  Additionally, we restored and repaired the entire wooden opening for the window and installed new exterior protection sheets to help preserve it for another 100 years.

I have provided several pictures of the various steps taken. As you will see, the re-building of this window involved hundreds of very small pieces. Our Glass Artisans worked very carefully to restore this wonderful piece of art to its original glory and made us all very proud. Our Field staff did a fantastic job of removing, transporting and re-installing the window.

Next time you are in the San Francisco Columbarium please take a minute to view this amazing window and pay tribute to the creative genius of H.R. Hopps and E.B. Wiley from the San Francisco of 1909. We think you will agree that stained glass is truly a timeless art, it just needs a little help every 100 years or so.

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