Historic old windows are more than just beautiful, they tell us stories about the past. Take for instance, wavy glass. Old glass is rippled because it’s an “offshoot of the bottle making craft,” Gordon Bock explains in his book, The Vintage House. Glassblowers would blow molten glass into long thin cylindrical bubbles before slitting them open with a hot iron along their length to form a “shawl,” which was then put in an oven to wilt the sides, turning it into a sheet of flat glass. Thus the waves and ripples. People would choose the grade of glass they wanted for their windows, Bock writes.
“To be sure, homeowners and architects of the past always sought the best view possible for important windows by selecting as much top-grade glass as the budget allowed. However, when it came to secondary windows on the upper floors or in service rooms, less expensive, second-grade glass with occasional ripples or seeds – those little football-shaped bubbles that lie suspended in the thickness of a pane – was usually just fine.”
Preserving old windows made of such glass, preserving old houses and buildings, helps us see how things used to be. Knowing where we came from informs us as we move forward. This is one reason we’re proud to once again help sponsor the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s PastForward 2015 conference in Washington D.C., which started today. The NTHP is dedicated to helping preserve historic buildings and places in the United States.
A key way to support that effort is to create resources to help people interested in window preservation and saving old buildings. With this in mind, we’ve created a Window Hero Webinar Series to highlight historic preservationists and others who are teaching people not only how to restore and preserve old windows, but why it’s important. Our next Window Hero Webinar will feature Alison Hardy who heads the newly formed Window Preservation Alliance and owns Window Woman of New England, helping to restore and preserve historic windows throughout her region.
Slightly warped windows are so much cooler and durable than factory-made double panes. It’s always clear when a beautiful historic building has new windows – there’s something off, something missing. In a society where we’re constantly told new is better, we sometimes need help seeing the beauty in what’s old.