ShareThis Page

Preston Park earns its place on National Register of Historic Places

| Sunday, April 21, 2013, 12:30 a.m.

Michael Gimigliano says he was overwhelmed the first time he saw the land that makes up Preston Park in Butler Township.

“The first time I saw it, I knew it was a National Register property. It is an English garden,” said Gimigliano, a retired archaeologist and preservationist who nominated the onetime site of Preston Laboratories to the National Register of Historic Places on behalf of the township.

The park, one of just 11 sites in Butler County on the National Register, was added to the list late last year. On May 1, a private reception will be held to honor Gimigliano and others who worked for the listing.

Preston Park was the home and workplace of Frank Preston, an English-American engineer, ecologist and conservationist who helped found the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and donated much of the land that now makes up Moraine State Park.

Preston was a leading expert in glass technology. Among his accomplishments was the development of a lens polishing machine for George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak. He invented a glass-melting furnace that allowed Corning Glass to create Corelle glassware.

At the end of Prohibition in 1933, beer was being produced again but there were problems with bottles exploding under pressure.

“Workers and the public were injured from defective bottles. The industry turned to Preston because he was well known and well respected through his consulting and publications,” said Gimigliano.

Preston bought the Butler Township property in 1926. It includes six buildings. Among them are Preston's house, a machine shop, an instrument building and a lab.

Preston retired in 1962 and sold his company, now known American Glass Research, which is still based in Butler. The company operates labs in Germany and near Toledo, Ohio.

Born in Leicester, England in 1896, Preston created an English garden in Western Pennsylvania.

“It's a combination of unique planting. Not all are native to America. How he got some of these plants to grow in this area I do not know,” said Ed Kirkwood, Butler Township's manager.

The property has seven Pennsylvania trophy trees — each is the largest of its species in the state. For decades, few people in Butler Township knew what was inside the fenced-off 87 acres that now make up Preston Park.

The entire property has a fenced or wooded perimeter and is not visible from outside.

“It's a hidden jewel that we were not aware of. No one really knew, or paid attention to what was there, because you could not see it,” said Dave Zarnick, a Butler Township commissioner and one of the park's board members.

Preston died in 1989 at age 92. His wife, Jane Preston, who willed the property to the township, died in 2008 at age 96. It was not until 2011 that the public saw the property during an open house.

“There were about 600 people who showed up. They were mostly astounded by it,” Zarnick said.

For years, Zarnick said children from the neighborhood imagined all kinds of goings on at property. “You know how kids' imaginations would run with this large of a property that you can't see into,” he said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.