Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum hosts final visitors at original site
While growing up in Mt. Pleasant, Josh Bair witnessed the closings of the Lenox Crystal and L.E. Smith glass plants.
That's why Bair — the local leader of the Phoenix & Consolidated Glass Collector's Club — was so happy to see the active preservation of the history behind those companies, along with that of the former Bryce Brothers Glass Co., during a visit Friday to the Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum, he said.
The visit was the last hosted by museum volunteers at its original location at 537 W. Main St. before it was moved Wednesday to space inside O'Rourke Crystal and Antique Glass at Mt. Pleasant Glass Center at 402 E. Main St. near the borough.
“Through the effort of the newly formed Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum, these pieces of our local past — the glass, the faded photos, the oral history — now have a home where they can not only be preserved for the future, but also where they can be shared with the community now,” said Bair, 24.
Bair and roughly 20 fellow members of the Phoenix & Consolidated club, which recently held its 21st annual convention in Coraopolis, detoured to the borough to see first-hand the collection of local glass artifacts from all three of the area's former glass houses.
“Glass making is a bygone art here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but the people who once worked in the factories are still around. Through their stories and experience, they unknowingly keep the remaining history alive,” Bair said. “These fewer and fewer individuals, and the children and family members they passed stories on to, are invaluable oral records of a vibrant industry that no longer exists in our region.”
Bair — a 2007 Mt. Pleasant Area graduate and marketing manager at Greendance Winery — believes the move to the new site will benefit the museum in the long run, he said.
“I thought it was great news. Not only because of the Lenox history, but because Peter (O'Rourke) a fascinating man in his own right,” he said.
In addition, Bair said the new location would better equip the museum to take in larger tour groups, which often travel by bus.
“The Main Street location was nice because Mt. Pleasant's Main Street is beautiful, but now the museum will have much more space,” he said.
The principles governing the creation of a glass museum in Mt. Pleasant run parallel to those that govern the Phoenix and Consolidated club founded by Chicago native Jack D. Wilson, the author of the book “Phoenix and Consolidated Art Glass: 1926-1980,” Bair said.
“Why do our members gather from all over the country for a four-day convention in Coraopolis? Because that's where the glass was made, that's where the tradition has to be preserved,” he said. “We support the work of any local area seeking to make its glass history relevant again, because our club simply loves glass.”
Many club members were unfamiliar with Bryce or Smith glass and were eager to learn more through their visit to the local museum, Bair said.
“As this glass revival movement, as I like to think of it, gains momentum, I hope it will bring appreciation to a new generation for the art, beauty, and history behind even a single goblet,” he said. “So it is our duty as a community in Mt. Pleasant to support a museum that seeks to show how extraordinary a small town was at making glass, how diverse the workers were, how this industry fueled our town and to share the aesthetic of each company's pieces.”
Bair is the son of Richard and Debbie Bair, who are residents of Kecksburg.
Richard Bair, who is a fellow Phoenix & Consolidated club member, spoke with pride of his son's passion for local history.
“Josh is the club's youngest member, and I'm probably the second-youngest member, and I'm 59,” Richard Bair quipped. “Josh's hope is to work someday for an actual museum where he can put to use this information he has collected. He's got a mind for design.”
Cassandra Vivian, president of the museum's board of directors, considered the last official visit to the museum at its former site to be a successful one, she said.
“They were very nice and very interesting,” Vivian said. “The came from everywhere — Connecticut, Chicago, Vermont, Lousiana — and they're taking our message home with them.”
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.