Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company

I had no idea this factory even existed until the day I was going. Sitting just off Rt. 21 in  Newark, thousands of people pass by this building every day. But very few of them have any idea what it was.

As the name may suggest, the company is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.The history of the company dates all the way back to 1883, when it was strictly manufacturing glass and glass products.

The company soared, becoming the first successful American company to manufacture high quality plate glass.

15 years after the company was founded, they had already become the largest manufacturer of plate glass. The boom in the manufacturing of cars called for an increased need for plate glass, and company was expanding at an impressive rate.

At the beginning of the 1900's, the company expanded overseas. They acquired a glass manufacturing plant in Belgium.

The company continued to create new advancements in the production and properties of plate glass. They had just started working on a new laminated aircraft glass when the Pearl Harbor attack happened.

During the war, the company changed their focus on products with military applications like so many other companies were.

Even after the war, the company continued to see prosperity. The end of the war brought on a new wave of wealth across America and Europe. Soon cars were becoming much more mainstream, and with them came a need for plate glass.

The company continued to diversify its interests, and changed its name to PPG Industries in 1968.

By the 1970's, the company become the first major corporation to develop a flat plate solar collector.

The company continued to prosper, and in the 1990's they developed the technology that brought us Transitions Lenses.

The company is still around, has is a multi-billion dollar a year gross revenue. The company has operations in over 70 countries, so unfortunately the companies formal written history doesn't include anything about its Newark operations. I searched around the internet trying to find  some information about when the plant closed, or what specialty product was made there. Unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot to be found. There were a few old advertisements being sold over eBay, and a news article about the complex being the subject of a brownfield grant for the cleanup of the complex. Apparently they left 6 large underground tanks filled with hazardous substances underground next to the buildings. I assume they were gone when we visited, but I don't really remember any clear signs of a large scale dig in the area. The complex itself is still partially active, and only the two buildings in the photos above are still left abandoned. I'm sure the buildings will be taken down at some point, but for now they really just stand to accommodate taggers, homeless, and the occasional photographer like myself. Just another reminder of a once great industrial past that has left the city that once thrived on it.


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  3. Wow My great grandfather, grandfather, and his brother worked there Census records 1910-1940 (Henry, Mark, and Bernard Steele). I think that I read that the plant closed in 1971. I read it on line in an article about a superfund to clean the place up.

  4. This company surely look awesome :) as being a glass art lover I would love to work here or buy something really attractive for my house or office

  5. No glass was made there. The Pittsburgh plate glass company also owned a paint manufacturing facility in Newark and that's what this was. I've been there myself and the floors are covered in gigantic swaths of dry aint of different colors from years past when vandals find cans of Paint and smash them open.
    Some of your photos clearly show the bright paint on the floor.
    Also shown in your photos are the cone-bottomed Vats where the paint was mixed and created. In the 1960s a trailer delivering fuel to the complex stop at the gate at Chester Avenue right at the Crossing where it curves into Riverside Ave. A Hoboken eastbound passenger train controlled by engineer Carman plowed into the tanker trailer causing a massive explosion and selling the trailer careening against the wall of the Pittsburgh play glass company paint facility. The engineer is credited with saving the lives of the passengers by accelerating the train when he realized he could not stop in time and by doing so the train raced Right Through the flames without the people feeling anything, except a few cuts at the front coach coaches from shattering glass.

  6. My father worked here at the time of my birth in 1966, it is listed as his employer on my birth certificate. I found it kinda coincidental that along with being a NY Yankee fan he was a Pittsburgh Pirate and Steelers fan.