Early 1900 choir

Designed by Helen L Atkinson, Fairbanks, Alaska in early 1999 from archival photos of the choir, and of the inside of the church to show colors, furnishing and details. This stained glass window was made by Debbie Mathews at Expressions in Glass in September 1999. Made from more than 500 pieces of glass to complete her "most complicated window" ever.

The window commemorates St. Matthew's early 1900 choir, honoring Eva McGown's memory. Eva McGown arrived in Fairbanks from Ireland in 1914 to marry Arthur McGown. She became a faithful member of St. Matthews, played the organ and led the choir. Early 20th century choirs wore starched white bonnets and large starched white collars. In later years, Eva couldn't play the organ because of arthritis in her hands, but her beautiful lilting soprano voice always announced her presence in church.

Eva was a joyful, charming, charismatic lady. She was affiliated with many organizations and received many honors. The Chamber of Commerce named her Fairbanks' official hostess. She helped many newcomers find friends and housing; she also was Alaska's official state hostess. She belonged to the Women Pioneers, Eastern Star, Salvation Army, Soroptomists, Ft. Wainwright and Eielson Officers' Women's' Clubs. She appeared on national TV as Queen for a Day. In 1971 the University of Alaska, Fairbanks dedicated the Eva McGown Music Room, in the Fine Arts Building, in her honor.

Eva was born in Antirm, Belfast County, Northern Ireland on June 23, 1883. She came to Alaska in 1914 and died at the age of 89 on February 22, 1972 in the Nordale Hotel fire.

In the window, Eva is playing the organ. Shamrocks line the bottom row of glass. There are three shamrocks, each with three leaves depicting the Trinity, as do the three stairs up to the altar. The Trinity reminds us of God's blessings - like giving us people with the gift of music and song - Eva and our choirs!

written by: Helen L. Atkinson


Created on ... May 29, 2001