The best of the best collaborated together on designing Nazareth Hall: Charles Maginnis and Timothy Walsh, leading ecclesiastical architects of the day; Rafael Guastavino Company, one of the greatest ceiling makers; Charles J. Connick Stained Glass Company, the greatest American stained glass makers; and Morell and Nichols, landscape architects.
Charles J. Connick (1875–1945) described himself as a “designer and worker in stained and leaded glass.” The Charles J. Connick Studios (1912–1986), based in Boston off Copley Square was among the most prolific stained-glass makers in America. Connick shifted away from the opalescent stained glass that had been pioneered by John La Farge and Louis C. Tiffany to a translucent brilliant form of stained glass that recalled medieval precedents.
According to The Charles J. Connick Stained Glass Foundation, Connick “gloried in the same challenge faced by his medieval predecessors, manipulating luminous color within an architectural context. He spoke of stained glass as the ‘handmaiden of architecture.’”
Connick’s firm designed and executed all of the stained-glass windows at Nazareth Hall, beginning with those in the crypt chapel and the convent chapel, then the major series for the Annunciation Chapel, as well as the group for the Island Chapel. These were executed between 1924 and 1926. The iconography of the windows is important for conveying the meaning and message of the mission of Nazareth Hall.
Connick was the president of the Stained Glass Association of America from 1931 to 1938 and the Society of Arts and Crafts of Boston from 1935 to 1939. He published an autobiographical account of work in 1937 called Adventures in Light and Color, for which Charles Maginnis wrote the foreword. Among the interesting sections of the book is Connick’s guide to a “glassman’s holiday.” He recommends notable sites in Europe and the United States for viewing stained-glass windows, including many buildings that contain his own work, Nazareth Hall among them.
The R. Guastavino Company was the outgrowth of the architecture and fireproof construction business established by Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908) and his son, also named Rafael (1872-1950). The Guastavinos came to the United States from Barcelona, Spain, in the 1870s and established themselves in New York in 1881.
Guastavino vaulting was used in the finest buildings during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The elder Guastavino utilized traditional Catalonian methods to develop a system of fireproof construction that used terra-cotta tile, built up in layers and held together with mortar. He called his method “cohesive construction,” which he explained in a book of that name published in 1893.
With the help of Bernard S. Levy, one of his New York patrons, Guastavino began in 1885 to apply for U.S. patents on his tile construction processes. The Guastavinos eventually acquired 24 patents on their processes. The Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company was incorporated in 1889, with the company’s financial affairs being taken over by William E. Blodgett of Woburn, Mass. In the early 20th century, the company name was changed to the R. Guastavino Company.
By the time the architectural firm of Maginnis and Walsh received the commission for Nazareth Hall, it had become the most esteemed firm for Catholic ecclesiastical commissions in the United States.
Charles Donagh Maginnis, the chief design partner, was born in Londonderry, Ireland, in 1867. He immigrated to Toronto, Canada, in 1885. He then went to Boston in 1888, where he found work as a draftsman in the office of Edmund S. Wheelwright.
Timothy Walsh, born in 1868, worked with the notable Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns. Maginnis and Walsh, along with Matthew Sullivan, another architect in the Wheelwright firm, joined forces in 1898 to form the Boston-based firm of Maginnis, Walsh and Sullivan. Sullivan left the firm in 1905.
One of the first designs by the new firm was the chapel at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., the school where Austin Dowling had studied and taught. Maginnis and Walsh quickly gained a reputation for designing religious and institutional architecture throughout the United States, although the majority of its commissions were on the East Coast.
The firm’s work is often compared to that Ralph Adams Cram, another notable Boston-based architect of ecclesiastical buildings.
Among the notable designs of Maginnis and Walsh include:
The landscape architecture firm of Anthony Morell and Arthur Nichols was retained in 1923 to further the Nazareth Hall landscape designs. By this time, Morell and Nichols had an extensive landscape architecture practice throughout Minnesota, in part because of their associations with the University of Minnesota campus system, beginning in 1910.
Much of Morell and Nichols’ work at Nazareth Hall focused on the courtyards, gardens and plantings around the main building. After Morell’s death, Nichols continued to work on the campus and the relationship between the main building and the Island Chapel.
Nichols’ views on campus landscape architecture were expressed in a 1929 lecture titled “Recent Trends in Landscape Architecture for School Grounds.” He summarized: “America has learned to build beautiful and efficient school buildings. She is, however, still in the process of learning to place these buildings in a proper setting, both with relation to other buildings and with relation to the softened and dignified effects that proper planting can give to the framing of these buildings.”