Brooke Glass ideas shared

WELLSBURG – Several graduate history students at West Virginia University have reflected on their visit to the former Brooke Glass factory and shared ideas for preserving the 100-year-old business. The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle has acquired the building and is seeking a $200,000 federal grant for an environmental cleanup to pave the way for the property's redevelopment. The building is deemed structurally unsound and plans call for it to be demolished. But the BDC and other community leaders want to ensure that while the building disappears, its history does not. Article Photos     To that end, the BDC arranged for WVU history professor Jenny Boulware and students in her cultural resource management class to tour the former factory in October. The group also visited the Brooke County Museum and Cultural Center, where they viewed samples of its product and learned about its history through curator Ruby Greathouse. On Thursday Carrie Staton of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, which has been working on the project with the BDC, shared responses from the students compiled by Boulware. Marvin Six, assistant BDC director, said he was impressed by the students' comments. “They understand this building is going to be demolished but it's not going to be forgotten,” he said. The students' suggestions included inviting former staff and others associated with the factory to return there for videotaped interviews about their experiences. The video could be shown in the glass room at the museum, it was noted. A student also suggested establishing a historical marker at the factory's site. The BDC has suggested, to promote interest in the property, holding an event inspired by the “American Pickers” television program where former employees and others with items related to the business would be invited to display and speak about them. Several students supported the idea, and Staton said she hopes the event can be held in the spring. In her report, Boulware said in response to media coverage of the students' visit, Don Birkett of Clarksburg e-mailed photos of tokens made by Crescent Glass, a forerunner of Brooke Glass in the same building, that he inherited from his grandfather. A student also suggested incorporating shards of glass in various colors found at the site into a mosaic. Local supporters of the project also have suggested a mural could be painted to pay homage to the business and the many glass factories that once operated in the city. An estimated 37 glass factories once operated in Brooke County, most of them in Wellsburg, and Brooke Glass was the last to close its doors in 2004. Built in 1879, the structure was home first to Riverside Glass Works before it was sold in 1908 to Henry Rithner Sr. and Ellery Worthen, who established the Crescent Glass Co. Years later it became Brooke Glass with Henry Rithner III its last president. Six and Staton also reported on cleanup efforts at the site. Six said the BDC was able to use a $77,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove a room where chemicals were mixed for glass production and the silo atop it as well as barrels and other containers of chemicals found in the building. Staton said the center and BDC have submitted the application for a $200,000 EPA grant for further cleanup efforts and hopes to receive news of the grant by late spring. She doesn't expect the funds to be awarded until late summer or fall. The amount is the most they can seek through the program and requires a $40,000 match the BDC plans to meet with funds secured from the Benedum Foundation and in-kind services. Staton said the application is among 11 submitted from West Virginia, including three others sought by the BDC for other brownfields in Hancock and Brooke counties, as well as others in the region. Staton said a panel of EPA staff from another region will be charged with reviewing the applications, using a rating system based on established criteria. “It often comes within tenths of a point (between applicants), so it's incredibly competitive,” she said. But Six said the BDC has a good track record in seeking grants from the EPA and was encouraged to apply for this next round of grants.