Stained glass windows by celebrated glass artist Louis Millet have been damaged while in storage at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Ann Sunde-Wilson)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Stained glass windows by celebrated glass artist Louis Millet that were removed from display at Kirkwood Community College have been damaged in storage, with an uncertain future.

The windows, saved from First Christian Church before the century-old building, at 840 Third Ave. SE, was demolished to make way for parking for the Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa medical pavilion, were accidentally damaged by a worker who stepped on them, said Kirkwood spokesman Justin Hoehn.

Read more: Stained glass windows find new homes in Cedar Rapids after demolition of historic church

Hoehn said the windows have been in storage since they were removed when Iowa Hall was renovated between 2020 and 2022. Two other stained glass windows remain on display inside Linn Hall.

A student walks past one of the stained glass windows on display inside Linn Hall at Kirkwood Community College in March 2024. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“What happened was an accident,” Hoehn said. “Accidents happen, but we take the storage and care of these very seriously.”

While they might be repaired at some point in the future, Hoehn said that would not happen until another place is found to display the large windows. A skylight from the church that Kirkwood received after the demolition of First Christian Church in 2012 also remains in storage, with no space identified to display it, he added.

Kirkwood was one of several entities to give a new home to the windows, along with the Cedar Rapids Public Library, Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, the New Disciples of Cedar Rapids and Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa.

The disposition of the matching light fixtures from the church remains unknown.

Stained glass windows were removed from Iowa Hall, shown March 7, 2024, and put into storage at Kirkwood Community College. Officials said a new spot has not been identified to install the windows. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Millet, credited with founding the Chicago School of Architecture in 1893, collaborated with famed architect Louis Sullivan on several projects, including the Chicago Stock Exchange. Sullivan was a consultant on the design of First Christian Church in Cedar Rapids, which was dedicated in 1913.

The 104 panes of blue, green and amber prairie-style stained glass Millet created for the church features geometric patterns, rather than religious symbols.

“It’s disappointing to learn that installation of the First Christian Church windows at Kirkwood Community College was so short-lived,” said Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian Emeritus for the City of Chicago and Sullivan expert, adding that it was disappointing the windows were damaged and “are now hidden away from public view.”

The demolition of the historic church marked the beginnings of the nonprofit Save CR Heritage, which advocates to save and repurpose buildings in the city.

The skylight and light fixtures are seen before First Christian Church was demolished to make way for parking in 2012. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

“This all makes a sad coda to the loss of the church itself over 10 years ago,” Samuelson said.

He noted that part of Millet’s artistry was the ability to create art glass windows that responded to the buildings for which they were created.

“Out of their original context, they are reduced to being only a reminder of an important cultural event in Cedar Rapids history,” Samuelson said. “They are beautiful as objects, but have lost much of their original power through their removal. But they were definitely worth rescuing, and making the effort to display them in a public place.”

Signs protest the demolition of First Christian Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2012. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

He added that the story of their origins seems clear from existing documentation and the windows themselves.

The building itself was largely the work of Cleveland-based architects Badgley & Nicklas, but at some point, Sullivan was brought in as a consultant, and his close friend and collaborator Millet was hired to create the art glass, likely through the efforts of Fred Shaver, head of the church’s building committee who had earlier been behind the commission for the Sullivan-designed bank in Cedar Rapids, he said.

Samuelson predicted restoring the stained glass will be difficult, if not impossible.

He cited the intense multi-colored swirling of the glass, and the artistry of Millet to skillfully cut and arrange such diversely patterned component parts into a unified window.

“Unlike most leaded windows where the color and glass patterning is relatively uniform, replacing such complexly swirled glass is pretty much impossible,” he said, pointing to some panes with cast-in pebbled and irregular surfaces, which also were used by Millet for deliberate artistic effect. “These surface-textured glass component pieces similarly are not commercially available today, or can be successfully replicated by custom fabrication.”

Samuelson said while the windows are not necessarily valuable monetarily, “they have great value, especially for the community.”

Damage can be seen to stained glass windows stored at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Ann Sunde-Wilson)