Museum program touts role of PPG on local glass industry

| Sunday, April 29, 2012, 12:30 a.m.

A piece of local history comes full circle next Sunday when the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum unveils a new acquisition -- the original architectural model for Pittsburgh's One PPG Place.

To celebrate the new museum piece, a program on "The Story of Glass and PPG in the Allegheny-Kiski Valley" will delve into the rich past of Pittsburgh Plate Glass and the glass industry. The model will be part of the Tarentum museum's permanent collection.

The 8-foot-tall, 600-pound replica, made of the same material as the gleaming towers of One PPG Place, will take center stage in the museum's ballroom.

"It's exquisite," says Linda Gaydosik, a Lower Burrell resident and museum volunteer. "It looks exactly like PPG Place in Pittsburgh. It has to be seen to appreciated. The people who come to see the model will be blown away by it."

The groundbreaking ceremonies for One PPG Place were on Jan. 28, 1981. The office space opened in August 1983; just two and a half years after construction began.

Before groundbreaking could begin, planners wanted a model of the building using the same reflective glass the skyscraper would use. PPG enlisted local workers to assist with creation of the model, which was started about five years before construction of the actual building.

West Tarentum resident Renato "Reno" Chieruzzi was charged with piecing the model together.

"The architects came up with the specs, and people from Ford City PPG did the cutting, and he had to glue it all together," says Dolly Mistrik, president of the Allegheny Valley Historical Society. "He sort of made the puzzle. They actually glued it together in the basement of his home."

Gaydosik, who served as coordinator for the upcoming program, planned an event to do the piece and its history proud.

"We felt it's beautiful enough and valuable enough we should do something to honor PPG with it," she says.

The May 6 program will feature three speakers who will make brief presentations on the history of local glass making, the history of PPG and the history of One PPG Place.

Speakers include two retired PPG employees, Hugh Prytherch and William Englert, and former Heritage Museum curator Justin Greenwalt. All will be available for questions and discussion once the formal presentation ends.

"They are very, very interesting. Not only how the glass is made, but the story of PPG is really fascinating," Mistrik says.

Local history and PPG, which was the first commercially successful manufacturer of thick glass in the United States, are inextricably linked.

"It was kind of hand in hand," Mistrik says. "The area had all the natural materials needed for the making of glass and the immigrants from Europe were glassmakers."

Other pieces from PPG, including those from local residents and facilities in the area such as the Creighton and Ford City plants, will be on display, too.

When the museum decided to put together a show, its organizers put out a call for PPG-related pieces.

"The community really came forth with a lot of items," Gaydosik says.

Among them are newsletters, blueprints of company houses, employee yearbooks and even a 30-year-old windshield from a Chevrolet Corvair signed by workers at the Creighton plant celebrating a production milestone.

Organizers anticipate that attendees with ties to PPG may spy pictures of themselves or friends and have a good opportunity to swap stories.

Mistrik is pleased with other local ties as well. The program, the exhibit and the model all draw upon the history of a number of places, highlighting the Heritage Museum's regional aim.

"I feel this one really brings it together, because it includes Ford City and Tarentum and, of course, the true article in Pittsburgh," she says. "I'm very happy and proud we got it."

'The Story of Glass and PPG in the Allegheny-Kiski Valley'

What: Exhibit of scale-model of PPG Place building and other PPG-related pieces, presentations on local glass and PPG history

When: 2 p.m. May 6

Admission: Free, donations accepted

Where: Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Museum, 224 E. Seventh Ave., Tarentum

Details: 724-224-7666,

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