Stained Glass Memorial Winds in Back in Unitarian Hands
By Helena Jones
Reporter, North Fulton Extra
The stained glass windows have been in place behind the pulpit of the Northwest Unitarian Church for two months. – yet the story is not in their arrival. It’s the 52 years they spent getting there.
They originally graced the old Unitarian Church on West Peachtree Street, the church were Margaret Mitchell was married. The saw the Unitarian headquarters turn to a Baptist one, then a bookstore.
When the church became the Abbey Restaurant in 1969, the windows stayed. Although the Abbey’s menu is religious in theme, the restaurant didn’t give the windows the highest priority
By the time they were re-discovered, the stained glass was covered with shellac and very dirty.
It took Terry Ann Karnan, wife of the Rev. Bob Karnan, eight hours to get the shellac off. Underneath she found a serene blue sky, in the center pane, a pulpit with two books and a lighted chalice. On the successive panes, green grapevines and clusters of purple grapes surfaced
“The colors became vivid and the beautiful tones showed through as I removed the dirt and shellac,” said Mrs. Karnan. “Cleaning the windows was a very rewarding experience, since there are so many intricate pieces and every pane is different.”
Since the panes are built into the structure so that the outdoor light shines through there is a fluorescence light behind then which when turned on causes the blue sky to have the yellow glow of a new day, a new beginning.
Karnan said that the panes were not crafted from the highest quality glass and iron, and that the patterns are not highly ornate.
Since the Unitarians do not adhere to strict dogma, the symbols illustrated in the panes may be understood by all people, said Rev. Karnan
“They portray ancient Jewish and Christian symbols. The free pulpit means that anyone who speaks from it is speaking the truth as he or she sees its; the books represent the knowledge that is contained in the lamp, or chalice, for all to share,” he said. “Knowledge lights the flame, symbolizing triumph of truth over fear and suspicion. And the grapevines and grape clusters represent the good life and those individuals who comet together to share in it.”
The stained glass panes had been viewed by many other devotees to Atlanta’s history before reaching their new home.
They were built into the old Unitarian church located on West Peachtree Street I 1915. The congregation dedicated the edifice to a Unitarian leader and his wife. At the bottom of the panes the inscription reads, “In Honor of George Leonard Chaney, Caroline Isabel Chaney.”
“The artist who crafted the panes is unknown, but the Chaneys were probably the important Unitarians in Atlanta’s history.
MARTA obtained the land and church in 1977 through eminent domain, with the intention of building a rapid rail station behind the Fox theater.
Historians employed by the transportation system inspected the property, removed the valuable items including $55,000 worth of stained glass and deposited it all with the Atlanta Historical Society.
The building was destroyed the same year.
At this time the Rev. Karnan applied for possession of the panes, which are now on indefinite loan to the Unitarians. “The other congregations showed no interest in acquiring the pane,” said Karnan. “A great deal of history has been forgotten because of this lack of interest.”