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Houze Art Glass aka Houze Glass Corp.
The L. J. Houze Convex Glass Company was formed in Point Marion, Pennsylvania in 1914 by Leon J. Houze and his son, Roger J. Houze. Leon was at that time a well-known leader in the glass industry having built and operated a number of glass factories throughout the eastern U.S. The formation of the company was the result of a partnership between father and son to manufacture convex glass and other glass specialties. The impetus came mainly from the issuance of a patent (No. 1,107,072) in August of 1914 for the â��Process of Manufacturing and Tempering Glass Articlesâ��.
With the onset of WW1 the company became a prime force in the development of colored glass for goggles, a business that continued to evolve such that at one point 75% of the goggle glass was produced by Houze.
In the 20s and 30s the company began expansion into many other products. A 1931 advertisement in the Factory Glass Yearbook identified the company as making transparent colored sheet glass, pressed glass specialties, as well as providing private mold work for others.
The first announcement of the veined â��On-X-Glasâ��Ã� lamp base came in 1931 with its well-known custard base color with tan and brown marbleizing. From 1920 through the 1940s Houze produced large volumes of lamps of many varieties and marketed them directly as well as ashtrays and a variety of other items. They also did considerable work for other companies who wanted unique items such as the Cunningham and Art Brass trays built to their specifications. The other large volume color, the clam colored base with red, orange, yellow marbleizing was developed in the late 1920s with lamp parts, smoking stand parts, and other items being produced into the 40s, although none of the end products bore the Houze label.
In 1952 the company still had its sun glass business, and in order to expand, developed the â��smoked glassâ�� product line of screen printed trays, souvenir items, and even a line of formal dinnerware under the â��Houze Artâ�� trade name. The companyâ��s business was plagued through the later years by fires, floods on the Cheat River and began to diminish in the 70s and 80s such that the main product was the purchase and decoration of mugs and glasses.
While the name of the company has not changed, the ownership has changed several times in recent years."
In 2004, Houze closed the Point Marion Factory.
Houze made utilitarian glass products for many years in mostly during the first half of the 20th Century. Some of its early oddist lines were gear shift balls and glass eyes for taxidermists.
During the early years, Houze-Convex Glass Co. made some spectacular glass during the art nouveau, deco, and depression glass periods producing fine pieces in agate, vaseline, uranium glass, black glass and other types of art glass. Some markets served were tobacco accessories, toy marbles, lamps, statuary, and tableware markets.
During the 20s and 30s, the company made some spectacular lamps for national stores such as Woolworth. Their most famous trademark is Houzex which was often in the base of their lamps. Other products involving the color 'Coralex' was unique to the company; a transparent, satin opaque pink glass. Other colors in this type of glass were baby blue, opal blue, moonstone, nile green, jadine, canary and veined onyx.
TRIBUNE ARTICLE ABOUT THE COMPANY:
When a town has one major employer, the company is more than a business.
In the case of Houze Glass Corp. of Point Marion, the company was the community, according to Mario Turco, former decorating manager at Houze.
Madeline Murray Desicy, who started cutting optical glass at Houze in 1933, recalled wistfully, 'This was a booming town. There was a lot of work then.'
Houze hasn't manufactured glass for decades. It evolved into a company that uses innovative techniques to decorate glass products.
In 1935, Noel J. Houze was in charge of the blowing shop, the flattening oven and the cutting department. His daughter, Noelene Houze Packrone, became a cutter in 1942.
'The glass arrived in long cylinders which were capped at both ends. It was then flattened, tempered in ovens, and cut. I had to gauge the thickness of the glass for the cutters,' she recalled.
In 1914, L.J. Houze opened another small plant, Houze Window Glass Co., which made convex (rounded) glass with a patented process. Houze also bought his own natural gas company in Greene County to insure an uninterrupted supply of gas for his factories. The entire company eventually became known as the Houze Glass Corp.
Houze Glass has always been a family organization. 'Roger Houze and my brother-in-law, Albert Desicy, started the decorating department and my husband made silk screens,' said Desicy. 'Working conditions were good. We had no problems. I always believed you canâ��t be a crank and get along with people.' Today Gary Brookover is the head machinist at Houze. His father, Donald, had been plant engineer for many years, the person who implemented the creative ideas of the decorating department.
In the first half of the century, Point Marion became a mini melting pot, because of Houze Glass. 'Italian stone cutters and brick layers built the furnaces. Skilled Belgian glassworkers lived in a neighborhood called Harveytown,' Turco said. He noted that the Belgian houses were meticulously maintained. 'They were always painting and they had beautiful gardens,' he said. The owners lived in the various communities where workers settled. 'Founder L.J. Houze built a house on Grant Street in the Little Italy area of town, with a walkway connecting to the factory. His son, Armand, lived on McKinley Hill and his son, Roger, on School House Hill.'
The company has survived many disasters, including fires and floods and Turco believes that 'some sort of magic keeps it going.' The success of Houze Glass stemmed largely from its vivid colors and imaginative decorations. According to Turco, it was also the leading manufacturer of sunglass lenses.
Packrone, Desicy and Turco all remember the 1949-53 renovation of the White House in Washington, D.C. Houze Glass was the only plant in the country able to produce hand-blown replacements for the 1792 windows.
Turco headed a decoration department that was constantly involved in product development. He recalled when pop artist Peter Max spent several weeks at the plant developing his work. 'He shared my office and tried to reproduce his watercolors on ceramics,' Turco reminisced. This continued the entrepreneurial spirit of L.J. Houze, who was the first glassmaker to use natural gas. Packrone also thoroughly enjoyed working in the outlet glass craft studios. 'That was great. I met many interesting people there. Daddy would save chips of glass and Mr. Gentile of Gentile Glass of Morgantown would pick them up and make them into paperweights,' said Packrone.
Mary Jo Billek serves as director of customer relations at Houze Glass. The company continues the tradition of quality decorating with a diverse line of products. Houze no longer sells directly to the public, but provides decorative glassware on sale in airport shops around the country and at other locations such as Disney World. Billek proudly shows visitors the new sublimation color processing, which places as many as five different colors on a mug. When asked about the companyâ��s plans for the future, she answered, 'We want to grow the business through product development.' Some things at Houze Glass never change.
Tribune, April 7, 2002
LOTS MORE INFO AND IMAGES AT: Houze Glass Museum
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