York Town Square

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Artist Margaret Sarah Lewis’ work honors church: Beautiful First Moravian Church in York, Pa., Part 15

This Margaret Sarah Lewis painting shows York, Pa.’s, First Moravian Church. This is another in a series on the church and its J. Horace Rudy stained glass windows. Also of interest: All Rudy stained-glass window posts from the start and York native Steve Zirnkilton’s ‘Law & Order’ voice known to the world and York County enthusiasts could find historical event, site to visit every day.
Terrence Downs provides information on this outside-in look at First Moravian Church.
York County City Schools’ educator Margaret Sarah Lewis (1907-1979), who painted this scene, was profiled in AAUW’s “Legacies, Remembrances of York County Women.”
“Her work was exhibited in various local, state and national shows including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Baltimore and in other major cities when traveling abroad in the U.S.,” “Legacies” stated in 1984 … .

Terry wrote:

“..upon this rock I will build my church.. Matthew 16:18.
First Moravian is recognized when seen in the frontal aspect. This painting shows it has evolved through 143 years – the portrait created by York artist Margaret Sarah Lewis shows First Church’s appearance of the 1940’s. This painting kept in a vault is now visible; Miss Lewis’ detail of emulating the glass patterns of the large West windows as crafted by the Rudy Studios of this City.
Aspects of this lost art now found show the progress of the building and church, for the large 1910 windows are in place that replaced the original frosted glass panes with wood muntins (1 unit yet survives on the building’s North side). Designed in1868 by Edward Havilland, the structure was painted since its erection, moving from a sand-color to a grey scheme with brownstone appointing in 1910, giving the building a less Italianate – more English appearance, as many of York’s downtown churches kept like character.
The 2 large trees were part of the 1868 site, being removed as was the painted brick to expose natural brick – a look reminiscent to York’s Colonial period in a renaissance of the 1950’s. Large electric iron lanterns from Variety Iron Works adorned the portico, replaced in 1973 with Colonial-period gas-styled lamps. What deviates from Miss Lewis’ painting is the absence of the intricate iron fence & gate along Duke Street, shown as a privet hedge. Also of interest is a rock pile at the left side – the rocks removed from the original 1755 Gemeinhaus which was the first Moravian Church west of the Susquehanna River – and also the first stone Church building in York Town. Only one of these rocks remains at the Church. The home at left was the Parsonage to the church, now is Church offices and ancillary operations. The residence turned offices at right was demolished in 1980 when the current structure for a local Attorney office was built – and larger in size diffusing light to the south side of the church sanctuary.
Margaret Sarah Lewis (1907 – 1979), as shown in her signature, is the artist of the oil paining on canvas stretched over masonite, and local lore has it that she painted it from location of the bay window in the McClellan home at 36 North Duke which also served to house the York Chapter American Red Cross, and today is part of C. S. Davidson Engineering. Who may have commissioned Miss Lewis to produce this work is unclear, or any affiliation to First Moravian Church.
Miss Lewis, well respected regionally in medium of a water color artist was employed by the York City School District as a Supervisor of Art and elementary art teacher; she resided at the stately Frysinger Building at 42 West Market Street in the 1940’s, where her apartment also accommodated an art studio. It is not certain the dating of the painting but may be from the 1930’s or ’40’s. She was the niece of Samuel S. Lewis, who started an illustrious career as Postmaster of York, led various State Departments in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including State Auditor General, the Secretary of Highways, Secretary of the Department of Forests and Waters, and voted Lieutenant Governor from 1939-1943, with Republican Governor Arthur James. Miss Lewis remained in teaching capacity to the City School System well into the 1960’s.

Also of interest:
Window in memorial to Beauchamp H. Smith: Beautiful First Moravian Church in York, Part 10.
Window in memorial to S. Morgan Smith, Part 5.
First Moravian’s website.
All York Town Square posts from the start. (Key word search by using “find” on browser.) Or search Google. For example: search yorktownsquare and first moravian and you get this.
Previous posts on First Moravian or its historic windows.