An antiques collector in Lancaster, Pa. recently received shocking news about a purchase he made from a dilapidated church in West Philadelphia.
Paul Brown told The New York Times that he usually collects 19th-century artifacts that reflect throwback Americana. However, he decided to buy two windows covered in grime located in stone walls of the Gothic Revival church built in 1901. Its new owner, the Emmanuel Christian Center, wanted to remove the windows as part of a larger remodel.
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Brown first heard about the windows through Facebook Marketplace and he eventually he ran into a salvager at the church who told him: “Do you want to get these windows out before we sledgehammer them out?”
Brown bought the windows along with wooden pews, wood trim, flooring, tables, chairs, and light fixtures, all for $6,000. After the windows were pried out of the stone and duct-taped into packing blankets, Brown contacted Philadelphia-based auction house Freeman’s, the Philadelphia Enquirer reported.
They told him some surprising news: They were rare Tiffany pieces.
“If no one said they were Tiffany, you sure couldn’t tell it by the dirty glass,” Brown told The Enquirer. After having been in the salvaging business for 30 years, he told the paper that “usually by the time I get there, nobody cares anymore, there’s nothing to care about.”
The auction house discovered that the windows—which span about eight feet in diameter—were made circa 1905 by Tiffany Studios. Founded in 1878, the workshop was known for ornate glass lamps, but it also created stained glass for many churches across America. The Enquirer notes that its founder, Louis Comfort Tiffany, was also the first design director at his father’s jewelry company, Tiffany & Co.
“To find another Tiffany rose, let alone two—it’s almost unheard of,” head of design at Freeman’s Tim Andreadis told The Enquirer. He added that it’s unlikely such a find will happen again anytime soon.
At the end of April, the auction house listed the two windows, which each have an estimated sale price between $150,000 and $250,000.