An antique window that can only truly be appreciated from inside the Washington County Courthouse was installed a century ago in honor of local soldiers who fought in World War I.
The courthouse is 150 years old and has been through several transitional periods that have an important place in the county’s history. The original courthouse burned during the Civil War and was later rebuilt at the same location, and a Confederate statue, installed in 1907, stands in front of the building’s front entrance. After World War I ended, the county decided to add it as a unique tribute to recently returned soldiers.
In March 1919, the Washington County Board of Supervisors approved the manufacture and installation of a one-of-a-kind window to honor the service of local soldiers and their role in World War I. The window replaced a second-floor door, according to documents provided by the Washington County Historical Society.
A newspaper article said the board’s reasoning for the project as “a tribute to our boys who left the country for the recent war and to the ladies who did their bit to make the world safe for democracy.”
The window — made of Tiffany-stained glass — was installed on July 4, 1919, as part of the town’s Independence Day celebration.
The event was reported as the largest ever held in the town of Abingdon, with 10,000 people in attendance to celebrate the end of the war. Judge John A. Buchanan was on hand to deliver opening remarks and host the window’s dedication ceremony.
The design of the window makes the intricate features hard to see from outside. To see it in its entirety, you must go inside and walk up to one of the highest floors of the courthouse. The panes are displayed in front of an aging staircase and chandelier on the way to one of the building’s courtrooms.
The window is divided into six sections. The central and largest section depicts a group of soldiers rising from a trench and charging into battle, according to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website. Flanking this scene on the left is a cannon representing conflict on land; on the right, a battleship representing conflict on the seas. An American flag is abstracted as a rainbow that arches over the entire span of the window. In the lower, left-hand corner is the emblem for the Red Cross; in the right hand corner is the emblem for the YMCA.
An inscription across the bottom of the window reads, “To the men and women of Washington County who answered the call of duty in the way of right and liberty.”
Tiffany glassware was created by the same family who went on to create Tiffany & Co. and the courthouse window is the only Tiffany glass creation featured west of Roanoke, according to the VMFA.
Kevin Hill, the county's director of general services, said that during his 15-year tenure with the county he hasn’t had to worry about any upkeep for the window. However, he said that before he started working there someone shot through the window and parts of it had to be repaired.
The window is part of a driving tour sponsored by the VMFA, which features more than 30 Tiffany stained-glass windows throughout the state. Members of the public can stop by to see the window during normal courthouse hours.