Arlington Street Church Resumes Tours of Its Tiffany Stained-Glass Windows

With regular tours of its 16 Tiffany opalescent stained-glass windows – the largest Tiffany window collection of its kind in any one church – resuming July 1, Arlington Street Church is now seeking volunteer greeters for the program.

Self-guided tours with a smartphone (which guests must provide themselves) are offered Monday, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. (No tours are offered on Tuesdays.) Tours cost $5 per person, and children 12 and under are admitted free.

The church’s first Tiffany window was installed in 1899 and the last one 30 years later in 1929, so as Sarah Netsky, a member of the congregation and the only remaining physical volunteer tour guide, points out for the first few decades after the building was completed in 1851, it had no Tiffany windows whatsoever.

Arlington Street Church had also originally planned on installing 20 Tiffany windows, said Netsky, but when the Great Depression hit in the 1920s, plans for the remaining four windows were abandoned. Louis Comfort Tiffany then died in 1933, she added, and with his glass studio closing soon afterwards, the church’s goal of installing a total of 20 Tiffany windows was permanently derailed.

Meanwhile, the church used to offer impromptu tours when visitors stopped by and asked to see the windows, but as demand grew, the church began offering them formally on a regular basis instead.

“We typically get people from all over the world, even as far away as New Zealand,” said Netsky, who is fluent in Italian, as well as in English, and is expected to be on site for occasional tours in both languages once her schedule is finalized.

But not everyone who comes to see the windows, which were recently restored by the “country’s preeminent restorer of Tiffany glass,” according to the church, is from out of town either.

 “At east a few times a week, we get people from the neighborhood who’ve never seen them before even though they’ve passed by them countless times,” said Netsky.

(Netsky is also a docent with the Church of the Covenant on Newbury Street, highlighting its collection of Tiffany windows.)

Gabey Whitehouse, a member of the congregation since 1967, said while the Tiffany windows typically attract a lot of international travelers, the church expect most people coming to see them this summer will reside in the U.S.

“We’re a very welcoming community,” Whitehouse said, “so we’re happy when people visit us.”

Arlington Street Church is also featured on the Boston Duck Tours, as well as on the Boston Trolley Tours, and also draws many spouses of people attending conventions in Boston. “Monday is a big day for that,” added Whitehouse.

Money raised from the tour will help pay for a major renovation of the church, which, said Whitehouse, now needs a lot of work, especially to address its “crumbling” brownstone façade.

Joyce Kamau, church administrator, said Arlington Street Church is the first public building in the Back Bay, as well a “very important building in Boston.” But despite its prestige, she said, many visitors to Boston are completely unaware of the church’s existence until they visit the adjacent Public Garden.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors again and hope to have a pleasant and safe resurrection of our wonderful tour program,” said Kamau.

To learn more about Arlington Street Church’s “The Art of Tiffany Stained Glass” tours, visit https://www.asctiffany.org, or to volunteer as a tour greeter with the program, contact Joyce Kamau at [email protected] or call 617-536-7050

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