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Salvaged church windows could be valuable

ALBANY -- The massive stained-glass windows gingerly plucked from crumbling Trinity Church by a demolition crew last month are not the work of renowned artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, experts have concluded -- but could still be worth as much as $32,000.

The windows also do not date to the church's 1848 construction but rather some decades later, said Susan Holland, executive director of the Historic Albany Foundation.

The conclusions were made with the help of conservators called upon in the 11th-hour bid to save the windows after the South End church began to collapse in on itself July 11, prompting city fire officials to declare a public-safety emergency.

And in what could add intrigue to the story of Trinity's demise, an aide to Mayor Jerry Jennings said it is his understanding that the windows -- currently stored in a downtown warehouse belonging to the DiTonno & Sons demolition company -- remain the property of the church's owner, a Bronx woman whom the city has been trying to find since the collapse.

Amanda Indarpaul bought the church at auction from the county in October, and officials have said she will be on the hook for the demolition bill incurred by the city, estimated to be as high as $141,000.

"I'm of the impression that the windows belong to the owner of the building," said Bob Van Amburgh, the mayor's executive assistant.

Van Amburgh said he had been told the windows' value could be as much as $32,000, a fair price but a far cry from what they could have commanded had they been the work of Tiffany, who was among the trailblazing American artists in the use of opalescent glass, known for its opaque, milky appearance.

Nigel Johnson, president of Cohoes Design Glass Associates, was one of the experts to examine the windows and said Tiffany's role in developing the technique has prompted some to mistakenly link him to other examples that were not his work.

"Tiffany was one of the inventors of opalescent glass, and Tiffany is a name everyone knows," Johnson said. "It's almost synonymous in the popular culture with opalescent glass."

In fact, the windows' true artist or artists remain a mystery. Johnson said neither he nor his colleagues were able to find any identifying signatures on the windows they examined, something he said is not necessarily uncommon.

Based on the techniques used, Johnson said the windows appear to date to some decades after the church's construction in 1848 from plans drafted by famed architect James Renwick Jr., whose credits include St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

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