Stained Glass banner image

Featured Window

Window of the Month
Our Lady of Grace, Dearborn Heights, Michigan

Click any image to enlarge.


Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Avenue
Detroit, Michigan 48202
Wayne County
Web Address:


Date Built: 1921

Architect: Cass Gilbert

Number of Pictorial Windows: 2

Building Notes: The Frederick J. Wiley Painted Glass Windows of the Detroit Public Library
The eight painted glass and modeled lead frame windows, contained in the Main Library's Adam Strohm Hall and over the Grand Staircase, are some of the most beautiful features of the library's interior decoration. Often referred to as stained glass, the panes are actually "quarry" windows, meaning they are made of painted glass cut into squares in the Italian Renaissance manner. In harmony with the architecture of the main building, the design of the windows is inspired by Italian Renaissance precedents, and some of the decorative treatments used are adaptations of decorative motifs treated in bronze, marble and mosaic in other parts of the edifice.

Frederick J. Wiley, 20th century American designer of windows, explains the significance of the ornamental detail: "It was custom of printers in Renaissance times to preface their books with an initial page containing the title of the book surrounded with a design of formal or fanciful ornament, illustrative of the book's contents...this practice has been kept in mind in designing this series of windows. In some places ornamental details used in the windows have been copied from book covers, illuminated manuscripts, printers' devices, etc." In typical Renaissance fashion, themes contained in the windows allude to the museus of Tragedy, Art, Music, Comedy and Poetry, and the signs of the Zodiac. Latin inscriptions and quotations from famous poems by Shelley and Milton frame the delicate bodies of the muses and of astronomical figures such as Mars, Venus, the sun and the moon.

The eight windows which were installed prior to the opening of Main Library in 1926, are still magnificent in their size, scope and color. Each window is an archway that measures ten by twenty feet and consists of fragments of painted glass secured in modeled lead came. The panels are contained in a delicate bronze framework that is supported by arabesques and uprights suggesting the exquisite wrought iron grilles of Spanish cathedrals. The ensemble of windows is consistent with the stateliness of the library's third floor which boasts glorious ornamental features such as decorated ceilings, gilt murals, hand-tooled bronze doorways, and Pewabic tile installations.

MSGC: 1994.0040

Studio Name
Paris & Wiley Studio