By Brenda Crowell
Staff Reporter

“I am the vine; you are the branches.”

Upton stained glass artist Carl Paulson, taking inspiration from John 15, created the stunning rose window in the 1960s that graces the Knowlton-Risteen Building.

Risteen's Rose Window

In a photo from the year 2000, stained glass artist Carl Paulson stands with
the rose window he created for the Risteen Building. (Ellen Arnold photo)

“When I moved to Upton in 1973, the town was just preparing to move into the Risteen Building, and that round window impressed me so much,” said Upton Historical Society member Ellen Arnold. “And it impressed me even more when I found out my neighbor, Carl Paulson, was the designer and the man who created the window.”

While other parts of the Risteen Building are showing the effects of age, Paulson’s rose window shows little more than some minor cosmetic damage to the exterior side woodwork.

“Carl designed this window so that it would withstand that type of pressure, because, if you’ll notice, the window was done in sections,” Arnold said. “The former window was a daisy, with the petals of the daisy coming in to a round center. All the weight was concentrated on that center, so it blew out from there during a hurricane in the 1950s.”

Paulson designed the existing window to withstand the elements better than its predecessor had. The vines trailing throughout the glass coupled with the solid wood framework on the interior side of the window provide durability against the elements.
“He designed it that way on purpose so the distribution of the weight was throughout the window,” Arnold said. “The sections of wood give it strength. If one section gets damaged, the rest will hold up.”

Paulson passed away in 2012 at the age of 98.

Built in 1876 as a Methodist Episcopal church, the Risteen Building is showing its age. Renovating the structure and bringing it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act would be costly.

Arnold is concerned about the fate of the rose window should the building eventually be sold or destroyed. She noted that the 2014 Upton Directory states, “The town of Upton bought the former Methodist Church building with the provision that the window remain in place.”

“I feel the town has a responsibility to investigate that. If the building is replaced, the window should be part of whatever replaces it,” Arnold said. “I’ve heard that it might be moved to the new community center as part of an acoustical wall, but that doesn’t make sense to me.”

According to the Avant Acoustics website, glass “transmits a lot of sound energy.” Acoustical materials are more commonly made of substances that absorb sound, rather than transmit it. Arnold also would like the window to remain visible from the outside.

“The town should retain ownership of that window,” she said. “It’s iconic. It’s a gorgeous piece of Upton’s history.”