Posted by: Staff | 04.29.2008

The Mysteries of Beaver: The Stained Glass Windows


Atop the two main staircases in Beaver, flanking the McElwain Studio, sit two stained glass windows: a knight and a king. They seem a little out of place, and I often wondered how and why they got there. With a little digging, though, it becomes clear that they are actually emblematic of a big part of Beaver history.

Back in the 20s and 30s, the “Arts and Crafts” movement was slowly beginning to wind down, but its influence on Beaver’s curriculum remained. Until the 1950’s, students at Beaver had majors, each of which had its own set of specific classes. For art majors, classes and activities included bookbinding, printmaking, metal work, costume and set design, and so on. Many of these classes required a final project for every student, and the stained glass windows are likely a result of that.

The window of the knight was created by Sylvia Van Ness Martin, class of ’37. Sylvia was the daughter of Beatrice Whitney Van Ness, Beaver’s first Art Department Head, who actually designed McElwain studio. It is unclear who made the window of the king, and whether it is in any way associated.

The Beaver archives include pictures of many of these activities, and even samples of students’ creations. Shown here are just a few. The attic holds an even more tangible relic: an actual manual printing press, albeit lacking the expensive type fonts needed to start printing again.

While work of this sort has largely disappeared from Beaver, and art projects have perhaps turned more abstract than practical, traces of that era remain in the cross-curricular creative projects Beaver students still undertake. For evidence, drop by the 8th graders’ annual CSP fair on Friday, May 30.

Special thanks to Ms. Boylan, Mr. Gow, and Toph Tucker



  1. Now THIS is a good Mystery. Well done Maddy!

    – (Person who complained about the last one)

  2. awww conflict resolved


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