The 79 Year History of the Glass in Weston, West
The story of Glassworks must start with a glimpse
of Mr. Louie Wohinc, the man who started Louie Glass Company in
Weston, WV in 1926. Louie was born in 1880 in Lunlana, Austria.
When he was 9 years old he began working in a glass factory in Sagor,
Austria. Louie came to Rochester, Pennsylvania to join an uncle
in the glasshouse there in 1905. He stayed briefly at various glass
houses including one in Tiffin, Ohio then Huntington, WV then Shadyside,
then Bastow Manufacturing Company, in Weston, WV and finally around
1910 Louie worked at Belgrade Glass Company in Buckhannon, WV where
he stayed for the next ten years. Louie spoke no English and had
very little money when he came to America, but by the time he got
to Ohio he knew that one day he wanted to have his own factory.
After World War I, Louie returned to Weston but
was almost penniless. Soon however, he had a job again at Bastow
Manufacturing. In Weston he became a champion glassblower of America.
His reputation was that he blew more stemware in a single shift
than any other man has ever blown. This record supposedly still
stands today! Before Louie had been back with Bastow very long,
the firm was operating at a loss. In spite of the excellent quality
of glassware produced, sales decreased. The directors offered the
management of the company to Louie because he had demonstrated his
ability to blow glass and had abundant experience with other glass
blowers. But up to now he had no sales experience, the one line
of training with extreme importance to the success of the factory.
Louie was fearless and had limitless energy.
Although Louie became very good at sales, he could
not control the policies of the Bastow company and after 6 years
he decided to establish his own factory, the Louie Glass Company,
in 1926. With his sales experience orders came from every section
of the country. With Louie gone, the Bastow Company was seeing their
business decline so they asked Louie to take charge again and he
did. This gave him products of two large factories to sell. Louie
Glass was in great demand. In fact, he was forced to build a third
factory and in 1930 he organized the new West Virginia Glass Company,
which was located in Weston as well.
Louie Wohinc operated these plants until his death
in 1950 as a result of an unfortunate bar fight accident. Margaret
Wohinc, Louie’s daughter, then took over management of the Weston
plant until January 1972 when she sold the plant to Princess House,
Inc., which sold the glassware through home party plans. In August
1977, the old plant was torn down to make way for a new building.
In March 1978, the Colgate-Polmolive Corporation bought Princess
House and Louie Glass. This factory operated as an exclusive producer
for the Princes House sales organization for almost 30 years.
A change in the marketing direction by Princess
House to continue their growth to a demanding American and in an
international marketplace prompted Princess House to sell the facility
in October 2000. Entrepreneurial and experienced in the glass industry,
a team of four owners, including Robert Gonze, purchased the facility
and immediately set out to market the strength of the largest remaining
American mouth blown glass shop. Unfortunately, the imported products
now available in the clear, thin walled commodity type of glass
produced in the factory were much less expensive from countries
in the Pacific Rim. Glassworks was forced to move to new types of
glass and selected art glass and cameo glass to change its manufacturing
tools to produce. A vision of American glass artists fusing with
American glass manufacturing was in place and a Studio Glassworks
product line was in development. Cameo Glass, a process of carving
designs through layers of colors, was planned to become a factory
mainstay. Artists, Kelsey Murphy and Robert Bomkamp, were leading
the way for this unique West Virginia factory art form.
In 2004 Glassworks went bankrupt as a result of
overseas trading. The factory was bought by Capredoni, a glass company
specializing in glass “ice” sculptures, and was in business until
December 2005, when it closed down.