Restored Grant Wood window to be unveiled during Freedom Festival - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Restored Grant Wood window to be unveiled during Freedom Festival

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - The late artist Grant Wood is getting something he wanted about 81 years after he requested it -- a public unveiling for his one-of-a-kind stained glass window.

If all goes as currently planned, the window he designed, now valued at $3 million, will be unveiled for the first time during Cedar Rapids' Freedom Festival this summer even though it has been part of the Veteran's Memorial building in Cedar Rapids for decades.

The unveiling of the window, which was designed to welcome home veterans, has all come about as the result of the floods of 2008 and the need for a $300,000 restoration of the window due to damage from the disaster.

The stained-glass window stands 24-feet high and is 20-feet wide. The dominant figure is a 16-foot-tall "Lady of Peace" dressed in flowing robes and a blue mourning veil. In one hand she holds a palm branch which signifies peace, and in the other, a laurel wreath that signifies victory.

Soldiers line the bottom of the window and all stand 6 feet tall, depicting privates rather than officers from the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I.

Mike Jager, director of the Veteran's Commission which oversees the building, explained the lack of a public unveiling when the window was first installed goes back to Wood's choice of a German company to make his design into a window. The company's St. Louis studio was not equipped to handle the project, so all the work was done in the company's Munich studio.

"It was about 10 years after the end of World War I," Jager said. "The Daughters of the American Revolution were furious that he was taking the work to Germany. They accused him of being unpatriotic."

Because of the controversy, a public unveiling was never held, despite a plea from Wood, who said he had only charged $9,000 for a work of art that was clearly worth $12,000, Jager relates.

Wood designed the window beginning in 1927, oversaw its construction and painted the faces and other areas of the glass before it was completed and installed in 1929.

Fast-forward 79 years or so. The floods of 2008 inundated downtown Cedar Rapids and came up into the main floor of the Veteran's Memorial Building. Although the water stopped within inches of the window, moisture became trapped in the protective covering. The moisture eventually caused damage to the framework that holds the stained-glass panels. Extensive expanding and contracting of the frame in turn caused cracks in the glass.

Jager said payout on an insurance policy helped cover much of the repair costs, with the Commission picking up the remainder. Bids were taken from a number of companies, but the one that stood out was from a Davenport studio, Glass Heritage, LLC, a fully-accredited member of the Stained Glass Association of America.

Now, Glass Heritage's owners and employees are finishing up the delicate nearly year-long restoration that has involved nearly 9,000 individual pieces of stained glass that make up 58 panels which comprise the window, said John Watts, a co-owner of the company.

The fact that Glass Heritage was chosen to do the work has made the owners and staff very proud, he added. "The fact we were chosen to restore that piece of history, the only one in the world, is a real sense of pride," Watts said. "The staff has developed a sense of ownership in restoring the window."

Jager couldn't be more pleased. "This restoration will buy us another 75-100 years for that window," he said.

Currently, plans are underway to officially unveil the restored Grant Wood stained glass window sometime during the annual Freedom Festival in Cedar Rapids which runs from June 13-July 4. Jager is also looking forward to the continued restoration of the building, which until the 2008 floods, housed the Cedar Rapids city offices, a veteran's museum and auditorium.

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