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Paul Brown an antiques collector, used to look for interesting collectibles, but never thought what he would find in an old church in Philadelphia. Brown is usually interested in old advertising signs and gas station memorabilia, but his interest was piqued when he stumbled across two vintage stained glass windows on Facebook Marketplace. They sat in Hickman's Temple, A.M.E. A church currently being converted into the Emmanuel Christian Center.

Built in 1901 as  St. Paul's Presbyterian Church, the Gothic church still has cracked and dirt round windows. Brown was asked if he wanted them before they were "beaten down with a sledgehammer." He gladly paid $6,000 for the couple and hired workers to remove the windows from the stone. Brown didn't know the windows were of any particular value, but he was drawn to them because they were "round and tall, and there was violet in them." He believed their shape, size, and colour could attract buyers.

After the windows were removed from the church, Brown took them to Freeman's auction house for appraisal and was amazed at what he found. The two rose windows he bought were actually made by the famous Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company around 1904. Opened in 1885 by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the company is perhaps best known for its Tiffany stained glass  lamps.  

In fact,  the news surprised Brown because it associated Tiffany with lamps, not windows. However, the company made a wide range of stained glass, including vases and windows. These  windows probably served to enlarge the church. The crown, representing Christ, is in the centre of one window and the dove, symbolising the Holy Spirit, rests in the centre of the second window.

"Upon exposure to light, the laminated glass reveals a cross in the centre of the dove, an example of Tiffany's ability to use her specialised processes to heighten the emotional experience and deepen the meaning of her designs," writes the auction house. Upon learning that the windows were Tiffany windows, Brown invested an additional $50,000 in the restoration. Currently priced between $150,000 and $250,000 each, the pair will go up for sale in a design auction at Freeman's on May 18th. While he can't be certain  the windows will meet or exceed their value, Brown is almost guaranteed to get a good return on his investment. 

 How  Tiffany windows  sold out in the first place is another story. The senior minister at the Emmanuel Christian Center had no idea of ​​their origins and, given their poor condition, urged the contractor to sell them. Even the local history society, which was fighting to block the church's renovation, didn't mention  Tiffany in their 2021 application to nominate her for the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

The windows were so encrusted with dirt and mold that it was most likely quite difficult for specialists to make out the  Tiffany glass markings. Tim Andreadis,  director of crafts and design at Freeman's, told the New York Times that the auction house consulted  several experts before determining  the windows were made by the famous glass studio. They were also able to locate the church's name in a list of window patrons published by Tiffany in 1910. While it's a shame they're no longer in their original homes, it's certainly great to see that windows are getting the love and care they deserve, thanks to Brown's flair for antiques.

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