E. V. Richards – Stained Glass Artist
by Susan Taylor Block
E. V. Richards, Sr., an English-born architect, glazier, fresco painter, protraitist, and “scene artist,” learned the art of stained glass creations, wood engravings and comedy illustrations in his native land. Richards lived in Washington, D. C. during the 1870s and was said to have assisted Constantino Brumidi with his artwork inside the dome of the U. S. Capitol building.
Richards had moved to Wilmington, NC by the late 1880s. Here, he painted drop scenes and banners for Thalian Hall productions, early billboard-type signage for local merchants, and elaborate mechanical displays that incorporated still objects and moving scenery. To augment his salary, and because it came so easily to him, Richards painted local scenes and taught art through private lessons.
A description of one of Richards’ artistic promotions survives. The artwork was displayed at George W. Huggins’s jewelry store at 105 Market Street, in 1885. “A very creditable piece of mechanism in on exhibition in the show window…. It consists of a panoramic view of a lake scene in Italy. On one side of the lake is a grist mill with its water wheel revolving, while the opposite is a castle. In the castle is a small watch that is running, keeping perfect time, and is intended to represent a clock.
“In the rear of the lake, a steamboat, about six inches long, is plying to and fro across the water, and at stated intervals a train of cars runs from the rear of the castle to the mill, then is lost to sight until it again makes its appearance behind the castle.
“The whole thing is run by clock work and fills up about one-half of the window. It is the handiwork of Mr. E. V. Richards and should be seen to be appreciated.”
By 1892, E. V. Richards was designing and manufacturing stained glass windows. His first studio was on the corner of Front and Princess streets. Later, he established “Richards Art Glass Works” at 115 South Ninth Street. The inventory of his stained glass art is remarkable. Richards created windows for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Fifth Avenue Methodist Church, and St. James Episcopal Church, as well as making artistic contributions to St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Eventually, E. V. Richards moved to Galveston, Texas, where he attempted to bring new life and excitement to the Galveston Art League. He died there in 1915, before realizing his dream of establishing a permanent art gallery in Galveston.
(Information from various sources, including the St. James Church Collection at Randall Library, UNCW. Newspaper quote from the Star News, August 14, 1885, courtesy of the Bill Reaves Collection, New Hanover County Public Library.)