A beautiful piece of stained glass art is displayed in the foyer of the Good Shepherd Chapel at Fair Haven in Birmingham, Alabama. If you’ve ever visited the Chapel, or if you live or work at Fair Haven, you’ve likely seen it. It’s hard to miss. Many have wondered in recent years about the history of this special piece and the cornerstone that accompanies it. How did they find their way to Fair Haven? In April, we received some very interesting and likely answers.
David Bulit of abandonedalabama.com contacted Fair Haven regarding a story he was writing about Fountain Heights Methodist Church in Birmingham. He explained, “My organization and I try to promote the preservation of historic buildings and document what we can in the midst that these buildings are razed, such as what happened with the old Fountain Heights church.”
David’s research led him to understand that a stained glass window from the church was moved to Fair Haven sometime between 1965 and 1969, encased in glass, and put in the Chapel lobby. He went on to say that it appears the sale of the old church as well as the sale of the old Weather Bureau building nearby in the 1960s helped provide funds to build Fair Haven’s Chapel. Fair Haven would have been a fairly new kid on the block at the time, having opened as a 140-unit assisted living home in 1961.
We confirmed for David that a stained glass window is indeed still in the foyer of the Good Shepherd Chapel at Fair Haven, along with a cornerstone. The cornerstone identifies itself as from Fountain Heights Methodist Episcopal Church, erected A.D. 1903, and the lists the names of several people involved in building the early 20th century church.
The stained glass window from Fountain Heights is a pictorial representation of Jesus from Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” But the window is not encased in glass, at least not anymore. It is displayed in a light box, with the original stained glass surface as the front piece. Passersby can touch the stained glass itself, and run their fingers along the bent metal seams that form the artistic image. During the daytime, Jesus’ head, midsection and the lantern in his hand are slightly glowing. But at night, when the Chapel foyer would be very dark, the entire window is aglow with color and detail. It is truly a lovely piece of art, day or night, and perhaps to some it is also a treasured piece of history.
David completed his article on the Fountain Heights Methodist Church on abandonedalabama.com, and expressed satisfaction in learning that at least a part of the old church survived.
“The old Fountain Heights church was demolished within the past few years and it is unknown where the remaining stained glass windows are located,” said David. “But it’s wonderful to hear that Fair Haven has retained that window for all these years."
We can now be fairly confident that the almost 120-year old cornerstone and the stained glass window from Fountain Heights were moved to the newly built Fair Haven some time in the 1960s, where they have remained fixtures in its Chapel for at least the last 52 years. The Fountain Heights window was the only stained glass window in the Chapel until a fundraising effort in 2018. The Chapel renovation included the replacement of vertical and horizontal clear glass windows with stained glass. The feature piece of stained glass, depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd, can be seen from the inside above the entryway doors.