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

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Featured Windows, May 2000

Howard Miller Library Window

Building: Howard Miller Library

City: Zeeland

State: Michigan

This Sesquicentennial Window, dedicated in 1997, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the settlement of Zeeland, Michigan. In 1847, led by Jannes VandeLuyster, the Reverend Cornelius VanderMeulen and Jan Steketee, 457 people from the Netherlands crossed the ocean in three sailing vessels and made their way to the Michigan wilderness, where they settled and developed the community that later became the city of Zeeland. The window is filled with symbols and images that refer to Zeeland's history. The three sailing ships on the left side of the window recall the settlers' difficult ocean journey.

Left: Friendly Native Americans smoking a peace pipe, greeted the settlers on their arrival and helped them during the harsh early years. Right: The large central tree symbolizes the strength and endurance with which the settlers built their log cabins and first church, shown in the background. The woman in Dutch costume represents all of the women whose devotion and work contributed to the success of the settlement.

The circle symbolizes continuance and the rainbow denotes God's faithfulness and blessings to the settlers, who came for both religious freedom and economic opportunity. Quotations inscribed on either side of the circle refer to these goals. At the left are words from leader Jannes VandeLuyster: "I have observed the wonderful way of God in opening the door to America." On the right is advice about land development, given in 1885 by Chief Seattle of the Ottawa people: "Respect the land, teach your children that they teach their children that whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of earth." The red, white and blue border, from the colors of the Dutch and American flags, is a reminder of the ties between the settlers' homeland and their new home. In the upper right corner is the Comet Hale-Bopp, which appeared in 1997, Zeeland's sesquicentennial year.

The Sesquicentennial Window was created by John VanderBurgh of Zeeland. Born in 1916 in The Hague, Netherlands, he entered his uncle's stained glass studio as an apprentice at the age of 16. He also studied art at the Royal Academy in The Hague. Because there was no stained glass work available in the Netherlands following World War II, VanderBurgh came with his wife and three children to the United States in 1951 and settled in Zeeland. After working for the Grand Rapids Art Glass Company for several years, he opened his own studio in Zeeland in 1960. Throughout the past half century, VanderBurgh has created many stained glass windows for churches and other buildings in western Michigan, often doing all of the work himself, from designing and cutting to painting, firing and assembling. He says, "Working with stained glass windows has made life exciting for me, and it is still fascinating. I know I'm creating things that will be around much longer than I will."

(MSGC 1998.0009)

Text by Betty MacDowell, Michigan Stained Glass Census, May , 2000.