(ODD)yssey, Blog Post

The Southern legend of blue window panes

You may have heard the story of haint blue, especially if you follow this blog or any of my writing. Many people in the South painted the ceilings of their front porches a sky-blue color as a means of warding off evil spirits and those irritating summer bugs, which some of us think are one and the same. Read about haint blue here.

But did you know there is another superstition about the color blue involving glass? The belief that blue glass traps spirits led to the creation of bottle trees, in which people turned bottles upside down and placed over branches of trees. This custom was brought to this country by slaves, according to the Farmers Almanac.

“When African slaves arrived in the U.S., they created bottle trees from dead trees or large limbs next to their quarters and adorned them with glass bottles scavenged from garbage piles,” Doreen Howard wrote on Almanac.com. “Blue bottles were coveted, because they repelled evil and trapped night spirits to be destroyed by the rising sun. Many Milk of Magnesia bottles ended up on trees!”

In my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, two homeowners carried this belief to n extreme, placing blue panes of glass in some of the homes’ windows. One home has a few randomly placed panes of very pale blue. You really have to look to see them. These are on the museum of the historic home of famed artist Maria Howard Weeden, who used the name Howard Weeden professionally in a time in which women were often discriminated against in the workforce.

Weeden was born in the home at 300 Gates Avenue in 1846 and lived there until she died in 1905. The home’s website says, “Always a seeker of beauty, Howard possessed the rare ability to record its essence for others to enjoy.  The paintings and poems that fill the pages of her four published books (1898-1904) bear plentiful evidence of this talent. Not only was she able to picture the beauty of the daintiest wild flower or the most luscious rose, but to an even greater degree her pen and brush could capture and distill beauty of character in the portrait of an individual – most notably, African Americans who resided in Huntsville at the turn of the 20th century.

The home was built in 1819 and is one of the oldest in the state. It is open to the public as the Weeden House Museum and Garden.  

Another home on Franklin Street has distinctive cobalt blue panes in its windows. I’m not sure if they are historically accurate or if they were added by modern homeowners but they make the home stand out.

Check out the photos below. Do you know of other homes in the South with blue window panes?

Blue window panes in a house on Franklin Street, Huntsville, Ala. (Photo by Wil Elrick)
Blue window panes in a house on Franklin Street, Huntsville, Ala. (Photo by Wil Elrick)
Very pale blue window panes in at the Weeden House Museum, Huntsville, Ala. (Photo by Wil Elrick)
Weeden House Museum, Huntsville, Ala. (Chris Pruitt | Wikimedia Commons)

1 thought on “The Southern legend of blue window panes”

  1. I remember my great-grandmother’s house had a stained glass window on her front hall door. Of course, no one ever used that door. Everyone went down the lonnng front porch and went in by the kitchen door.
    The house has been remodeled twice since then. I need to go by and see if that door is still there. The owner is elderly -and immunocompromised- but when possible, I’ll try to get a picture.
    I really enjoy learning quirky facts you deliver!!


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