Seek and ye shall find: Part II

Bois Blanc Island visitors and appreciators of art history might be very surprised to learn that an artist who made an impressive name for himself in Alaska has familial roots and an intimate connection with this special island.

Eustace Ziegler, known for his ability to capture the true spirit of Alaskan frontiersman in the early twentieth century, was very much a part of the birth of a most delightful church and stained glass window found in Pointe Aux Pines on Bois Blanc Island. With its unusual location and cobblestone bell tower, it has to be one of the most charming, picturesque churches I think I have ever seen.

Church of the Transfiguration located on Bois Blanc Island, Michigan

It only remains open for 2 months out of the year, in July and August when the island is at its peak of island visitors. Bois Blanc Island resident Mike White shared that the rose style window was brought over on the steamer Duluth in 1906. It was the design of Eustace Ziegler and constructed in Detroit by the firm Fredrick & Wolfrum.

Florida resident, Sally Babler Sperry, whose grandfather was a cousin of Eustace Zeigler helped explain Eustace Ziegler’s connection to this window.  “He was an Episcopal minister and artist of Alaska. His father, Paul Zeigler, founded the church on the Island with Rev. Howard Buckley (not sure of spelling). Carl Zeigler (his brother) was the minister of the Church of the Transfiguration for many years.”

In researching the history of this charming window, I contacted Michigan stained glass artist, historian and consultant, Barbara Kreuger who volunteers with the Michigan Stained Glass Census which is a part of the Michigan State University Museum. She most generously shared information about the stained glass firm Friedrich & Wolfrum. According to Kreuger, this firm played a very major role in stained glass in Michigan and the surrounding Great Lakes states. She also notes that the firm has been in the same family from 1860 to early 1970, and is still one of the stained glass firms longest owned by people in the same family.

Those interested in additional history of this firm are invited to visit  www.michiganstainedglass.org . If you scroll over “Registered Stained Glass”, click on the Studio/Artist link. Then scroll down to Detroit Stained Glass Works, where there is a short history of the firm.

It is clear that Eustace Ziegler, his brothers and father were instrumental in the construction of this quaint island church. With such an intimate connection with this project, Eustace Ziegler, with his divine gift for painting, just may have indeed painted the image of Jesus on this window.  The window was recently registered by Christine McAffe with the Michigan Stained Glass Census where she indicates it was “painted” by Eustace Ziegler and made by Friederichs & Wolfram in 1905.

Image source: Susie Hopkins Photography

The Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington holds a large collection of Eustace Ziegler’s work including eight “oil on glass” painted windows from the interior of the Alaskan house that Ziegler lived in just after he left his Michigan home in 1909. He lived with friend, Ralph C. Stewart, in Cordova, Alaska. According to Cory Gooch, Frye’s Collections Manager/Registrar, the condition of the windows is very delicate, as there are problems due to the poor paint adhesion since these were not fired. Typically when painting on glass, the paint would need to be fired on for permanency. Therefore they have restrictions on handling these unusual works.

The timeline does seem to add up, and there is growing evidence to suggest that indeed Eustace Ziegler painted Jesus on the rose window of the church of transfiguration on Bois Blanc Island. This would be especially fitting as he, along with his family, demonstrated a deep faith and roots established in Christ. Further research needs to be done to explore whether the painting on this particular window was “oil on glass” or if more traditional stained glass techniques were employed. Otherwise, its longevity may be a concern. Conservation should be explored as Gooch suggests, by finding the right conservator here or by contacting the Corning Museum of Glass in New York and see if they have any recommendations or referrals.

Bois Blanc Island, with its rustic charm and humble island appeal, is a little slice of heaven on earth as it brings travelers face to face with nature, and thus God’s amazing creation.  This intimate connection to a most remarkable little island in Michigan’s upper peninsula, undoubtedly helped to shape and influence a young artist’s love for God, while also igniting in him a sense of adventure, which led him to the far and distant frontiers of Alaska to leave his mark on art history.

Image source: Robert Stephens @ http://www.theworldinlight.com

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9 Responses to Seek and ye shall find: Part II

  1. WOW – very inspiring…what an amazing window on such a small church – it would definitely make anybody want to know more about the artist! Love Love Love that window. You know I’ve been to Corning Glass Works and Museum many times as I grew up very close to them and I have yet to find time to get my family up there. They would love it. You can watch them blowing glass and doing all sorts of interesting things…..Anyway I digress…guess what I’m getting for Christmas…a Soldering station for Stained glass so I can start playing!!! How did you know?! 🙂 Thanks Brandie!

  2. Brandie says:

    Yes, a field trip is in my future. Corning Glass is on my bucket list of things to do before I croak 🙂 I would love to take the kids there. I am so excited to hear about your soldering station Libby! That’s more excuse for us to get together and make cool stuff! 😉

  3. Somewhere I have images of all the side windows too.. A real nice article, Brandie.. I’m not sure about the steamer transporting it over to the Island.. I recall being told it was brought over in a sailboat.. One to ask Sally about.. 🙂 Now remember to tell everyone you talk to about the Island that the black, beach and deer flies are awful all year ’round! LOL! 🙂 Oh and the skeeters are as big as hummingbirds.. 🙂

    • willbdunn says:

      I did get a message into Jonathon Freye for more details about his great-grandfather who he said sailed it over. I hope to hear back from him. I would love to include those interesting details into the story…Perhaps there will be a part III sometime as I gather more information…lol Not so easy from northern IL, when all the interesting archives with the juicy details, are in Michigan 😉 The source of info. about the steamer was taken from something your bro posted on the Boblo forum. It sounded “official” because Mike said it was taken from the Cheboygan Democrat…lol

      Oh yes, I also forgot to mention the crazy bats that fly above head threatening to spread rabies to all it’s visitors 🙂 And the mice! Eek!

  4. I love your blog! Putting you on my blogroll today – thanks for sharing!

  5. Mike White, Sr. says:

    From researching the Cheboygan Democrat, and another unnamed newspaper, I find that the first side stained glass windows were brought to the island in August 1904. At that time the Bessie, a sailboat owned by the Resort, was hauling materials and people. Also, the Wau-kon, a steamer, was making trips to the island on an irregular schedule. So, it is possible that windows for the church were brought in a sailboat in 1904. In 1905, the remainder of the side windows arrived in the Bessie for sure, per the Cheboygan Democrat paper of Aug. 18, 1905. A few months later the Bessie was sold.
    The story about the rose window being delivered by the Duluth is spelled out in a paper in 1906 – “The window was so large it taxed the ingenuity of the Duluth and the Island force to transport it safely”.

    • willbdunn says:

      Thank you so much Mike! That really helps clear up the confusion…It makes sense that the smaller windows could have come over on Bessie while the much larger rose window would have required something more substantial. I don’t think I have seen a picture of the steamer Duluth, but now I would like to look for one. Many thanks!

  6. Pingback: Soul Searching: Part I | Studio Dunn Designs

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