Imperial Demolition     

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By Dee Duvall


Times Leader Staff Writer

BELLAIRE - Bricks, boards, glass, dirt and rocks remain where the Imperial Glass Co. once stood, bringing hope and despair to those who once worked there. As the demolition and plans for the $5 million strip mall continue, many feel sentimental. "Every- one from out-of-town asks "What happened to Imperial?'" said Gene Krapa, an employee of the Hay Shed gift shop. She and her grandfather worked for Imperial. She said the loss of Imperial is a sentimental issue because of the history behind it.

"Some people even wanted bricks from the building," Krapa said. Watching from the Hay Shed, Krapa said she saw people drive up behind Imperial and scavenge for momentos of the building. That was until no trespassing signs were set up. Ken Hill of Maroon Enterprises said no one is allowed on the lot.

"Most people are taking bricks as souve-nirs," said Charles "Bud" Fry, president of the Bellaire Development Committee. He said people are probably hunting for bricks that have "Bellaire" stamped on them. Bellaire resident Nancy Frizzi said the bricks used to build the Imperial plant were probably made by Bellaire Brick, which her great-great grandfather, George Robinson, founded. The bricks made by Bellaire Brick had "Bellaire" stamped on them.

Some people still remember Robinson's brick yard on the hill above Georgetown. "Some of the bricks had to come from that place," said Delbert Higgins, a former glass blower at Imperial. Frizzi said the clay was mined out of the hill up Fulton Hill Road past West Bellaire.

Higgins said some people from California and Michigan who attended the National Imperial Glass Collectors' Society Convention, held the first weekend in June, were interested in any part of the Imperial building for a momento. "The NIGCS people were anxious to see it for the last time," said Lucile Kennedy, Imperial employee for forty years.

"It's sad to see it go." said Bob Burns, glass collector and Imperial worker for ten years. He became a glass collector after spending a short time working there. "I became what is commonly called a glass nut," Burns said. "If you've ever been hit by the bug, it kind of stays with you." Burns said he cherishes his days at Imperial because a lot of nice people worked there. He added he can't get excited about newly made glassware either. "I just like the older things," he said.

Maroon Enterprises bought the Imperial Glass Factory in 1986 to develop it into an outlet mall. "The Maroon people have done whatever they could do to make it go before tearing it down," Burns said. "There could never be a glass business there again."

Krapa said that before Maroon Enterprises bought the factory, Imperial had been operating in bankruptcy with plans for reorganization. However, the plan for reorganization was rejected and the Imperial Glass Co. was ordered into liquidation by the courts. During the liquidation time, in April 1985, Anna Maroon bought Imperial with the intention of perpetuating glass making in the area. For two to three years after the purchase, glass was still made at Imperial by former Fostoria glass workers from Moundsville, Krapa said.

Krapa said once the strip mall is completed, plans call for the employment of 400 people."I really wish they could have done something else," said Frank Moore, another former Imperial worker. The sentimental value of the building runs deeper for Moore and his family. Moore met his wife, Theresa, in the Imperial office, where she worked. Moore said his brother also worked there. "It was a family all right," he said.

"We just kept hanging on," said Higgins. "They were always predicting we weren't going to last. "Every glass house is going under,' they'd tell us," Higgins said.
"They shouldn't have torn that down," said Brooklyn Ross, Imperial worker for more than 40 years who sells glassware at his furniture store, The Barn, in Bellaire.He would rather have seen the old building , even run down. Ross agreed the strip mall will bring more business to Bellaire.

"I'm just sorry it came to this," said Ralph Boyd, a worker whose grandfather began working for the company when it started. He believes Maroon did try to do what they could. "I'd rather see them tear it down than see it still standing with vandals and so forth," he added.

"It was a way of life around here." said Danny Lushbaugh, a former Imperial skilled glass worker. Lushbaugh said there was "a catch of turns" in which people could walk in off the street and work four hours at the time to make extra money. He said some would work for three days, not come back for a while, then they would come back and work some more.

"You were like family," he said. "This town should have tried to save it. I think it would have made a comeback." "It was a landmark," Lushbaugh said.
Despite the loss of a landmark, there are hopes for Bellaire. Larry Marinelli, Bellaire's city planner, said the strip mall is expected to be built and in operation in 14 months, barring any delays caused by weather. Marinelli said he wasn't at liberty to say which stores have signed leases at the mall.

"It's going according to schedule," said Hill. He said it should take two months to finish tearing down the building and another month to fill in the site. He predicts it will take about eight months to complete the buildings for the mall. Hill said that it should take "a year or so" to complete the whole mall project. Hill also could not release the prospective leaseholders. Marinelli said the strip mall will provide more jobs and change the whole complexion of Bellaire. "Bellaire will transform to a place you want to be," he said. "We just know it's going to be a good thing for Bellaire," Hill said.



The above article first appeared in Sunday, July 2, 1995
(Vol. 104 - No.104) issue of The Times Leader.
Our thanks to Lucile Kennedy for sharing the above article with us.


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