York Town Square

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Beautiful York, Pa., church known for neat features, as in 31 stained glass windows – Part I

The transom symbol is one of many J. Horace Rudy-made stained glass windows at York, Pa.’s, First Moravian Church. Terrence Downs, who has researched the church’s windows, writes that the window bears an ornate Crown ‘encrusted with filigree that, when brilliant light shines through, the tracery glints.’ He goes on to write: ‘The basic cross, alabaster colored – symbolized to be the Cross before us, and is centered within the jeweled base band of the Crown. Transfixed within the crossbar is a faceted diamond shaped jewel – on sunny days that capture sunlight. A perfect square is an element by the artist which is an ‘arts and crafts’ technique within the rococo motif; a technique used often by J. Horace Rudy.’ Also of interest: York County enthusiasts could find historical event, site to visit every day and York native Steve Zirnkilton’s ‘Law & Order’ voice known to the world and York Moravian’s Putz is an unsung, well-sung annual attraction.
York’s First Moravian Church is home of the Putz, a sight-and-sound show telling the Christmas story.
It’s the home church of pastor-turned-entrepreneur S. Morgan Smith, whose industrial legacy includes at least four ongoing York County companies – Johnson Controls, Voith Hydro, American Hydro and Precision Components.
A descendant of S. Morgan Smith and no stranger to First Moravian, Stephen Zirnkilton, has one of the most famous voices in the world. His is the voice introducing the TV show “Law & Order.”
And those are just a few of the beautiful church’s assets.
Now Terrence Downs is informing church members – and many others with this post – about another unsung feature of the North Duke Street building: its 31 “sizable” stained glass windows… .

This piece from Terry was written as an introduction for the series written for the First Moravian newsletter:

2010 heralds a Century – it was in 1910 that the accomplished John H. Rudy Stained Glass firm of this City, with studios also located in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were commissioned by the members of York First Moravian Church to replace originally installed acid-etched style glass windows, those units being part of the 1868 construction of the present church building, by our leaving the former Princess Street location. Only 2 of these original 1868 windows yet remain, one in obscure service, other being archived on the premises.
It is not many a Moravian Church that have windows on the same intrinsic craftsmanship level as the windows at York First.
Thru forward thinking, and with direction (and inspiration) of the widow & heirs of the
Rev. Stephen Morgan Smith, as well as other prominent members of the day, and in cooperation of a local architect (though it is not known if this was the Dempwolf firm), what members at First Moravians see is a result of renovating the space into a place of renowned and unequalled opulence without overwhelming ostentation. These windows are unparalleled in their styling within the boundaries of York County. They reflect the new innovations in style championed by firms such as Louis C. Tiffany, having European and Art Noveau characteristics – but are most unique to this region.
Many who enter the portals of old York First Moravian often remark on the startling artistry and beauty of these windows. In this Centennial Year (2010) of J. H. Rudy’s creation of windows, each unit will be explained as to it’s benefactor and design – and by departing from the centuries-tried tradition style of found in traditional early Moravian architecture being termed ‘Colonial’ – and aspiring to a more invocative decorative form – – making First Moravian Church unique to the larger Northern Province Moravian Church. They are more than museum relics! They hold a lasting testimony!
Upkeep & maintenance is a concern to this day which hold concern to the First congregation, as their care and slow neglect has caused some decay. Goal to refurbish units is slowed by the scale of their work, the size of the congregation and its resources. Hopefully good consultation and sensible advice is imparted by the larger York community – in realistic aspects – to provide ample preservation to these units . But aware of stewardship, the members of First are understanding of these pieces of art, their quality and story – and what exactly we are the recipients of – multicolored gems from our gracious Ancestors’ of First Church of the prior millennium.

Also of interest: For a look at a stained glass window in another York church, click here.
To learn more about the Putz, which includes tours First Moravian, click here.