Coffee, Tea, or a Stained-Glass Window?


The window in 1961, when apparently only men flew.Photo: Getty Images/Time & Life

For sale: a modernist landmark. Asking price: just $1 million and change.

American Airlines is building a new terminal at Kennedy Airport, and to do so, one of its existing homes — Terminal 8 — must come down. And that means the destruction of a 317-foot-wide stained-glass window in the building — once the largest stained-glass window in the world — unless flight attendant Eileen Vaquilar Clifford can help it.

Clifford, a 28-year American vet, learned of the demolition plans in July, and since then she has ventured into Manhattan’s public-art circles to attempt a rescue. “The structure has been an integral part of U.S. aviation for 46 years and was once considered the largest installation of its kind,” she wrote to potential aid sources yesterday. “To tear down a showpiece of this magnitude is a sad thought.” The letter mentions the window’s 30,000 red, white, and blue tiles and asserts that it would cost at least $1 million just to remove the piece from the wall. She says an airline lawyer in Texas is talking to museums and experts about salvage options. But so far she hasn’t found a sponsor.

If the airline doesn’t care, and if the art world hasn’t jumped to the window’s rescue, why does Clifford care? “I felt compelled because nobody else would do it,” she says. Her strategy: cold-calling. “I talked to the Smithsonian in Washington, and they said they might not have room for it.” Why stop there? “I got in touch with the U.N. because I know they’re planning on building a new U.N. and maybe they could incorporate it.” The Municipal Art Society has also given some suggestions, but, Clifford frets, “they might involve breaking up the window.”

That’s a last resort, which Clifford says would make the salvage more affordable to each buyer. You want the whole thing? Eileen welcomes offers:

Alec Appelbaum

Coffee, Tea, or a Stained-Glass Window?