Coxey Ruins

  • Cultural Revitalization Through Parks

    While cities across the nation benefit from the cultural revitalization that urban parks can bring, Ariel-Foundation Park is distinct in its kind. This is due in part to the rich history and rural location of Mount Vernon. The culture of the city has deep roots in its agricultural and industrial past, and Ariel-Foundation Park was built in honor of this history. The construction of Ariel-Foundation Park has the potential to revitalize the community, attract businesses, improve property values, and increase access to health and wellness opportunities.

  • Glass, Glaciers, and the Geography of the Midwest

    lipari obsidienne 28529Glass is formed naturally under a number of circumstances. Rapidly cooling magma can produce obsidian, a black glassy rock with a high silica content similar to man-made glass. Glass is also formed when lightning strikes sand or soil causing the silica to melt. Some meteorite impacts even apply enough shock pressure to force silica in the ground into a glass.

  • Glassmaking Innovations

    Glassmaking has a rich history that dates back to roughly 3500 BCE in Mesopotamia. Glassmaking is seen in many different cultures across the globe throughout time, and as you can imagine, we do not use the same process the ancient Mesopotamians used over 5,000 years ago. Innovations in the glassmaking process have been made all over the globe, from Egypt to Mount Vernon, Ohio. The process that changed glassmaking drastically was invented in 1925 here and was thus named the Pennvernon process.

  • Modern Ruins

    Whenever a group of people set out to pay homage to a part of their past, no matter how distant or disconnected, monuments and memorials tend to be strongly associated. Looking at almost every government across the world, we see that a well-thought-out monument has been the best way to show a true respect and care to the past. Looking at Ariel-Foundation Park through this lens, it is important to understand the full history of the site in order to create a thought-provoking, respectful monument. Such a monument allows the individual lives that were part of this site to be remembered by those who share a similar community and identity with the people whose lives were dedicated to glassmaking in Mount Vernon.

  • Nature, Culture, and Art

    An important aspect artists must consider is materiality. The line between natural and artificial in the context of art is meaningful because it hugely influences the meaning one assigns to a piece. In some ways the difference can be described very clearly, for instance when "Land Art" came about in 1960s, and as Judith Collins explains, artists "turned to working outside [on] the land, rather than in their studio, partly as a reaction to the urban materialist Pop Art that was prevalent at the time." It is clear in this context that the use of nature and natural materials outside in art can be considered the polar opposite of the artificial materials that were used in some artists' studios.

  • Protective Clothing

    Apron.edited The protective clothing worn by glass workers was designed to protect the body from burns, punctures, and cuts. The glass workers at the PPG plant in Mount Vernon wore denim safety sleeves that protected from heat and were reinforced with grommets, to provide ventilation and prevent glass puncture. The sleeves were held in place by alligator clips on the chest that attached both sides of the sleeves together.

  • Repurposed Materials

    The ruins are just a part of the leftover materials that comprise Ariel-Foundation Park. The park itself is a restoration project, playing into the artistic ideal of taking the old and making it something new. This has been done through sculpting pieces of leftover buildings, recycling old waste from the glassmaking industry, and putting it all together in an engaging and interactive space.

  • The Coxey Building Ruins

    The Coxey Building Ruins, one of the centerpieces of Ariel-Foundation Park, were originally built to be a steel-casting plant. The building’s namesake, Jacob Coxey, made waves when he built the huge factory complex in the early 1900s, but it never became the booming steel plant he envisioned. Instead, after Coxey’s brief and failed attempt at steel casting, the building became the home of the Mount Vernon branch of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company. At its peak, the PPG factory was one of the area’s major employers, with entire families, including many Belgian immigrants, working to shape and cut glass together.

    Proximity to readily available natural gas and fine sand made the factory the perfect place for glassmaking, and it was here that a new process of glassmaking, called the Pennvernon process, was invented. This process, in which glassmakers pulled ribbons of molten glass through rollers up to three stories high, dominated glassmaking globally from its invention in 1925 until the 1970s. In the 1950s, a new and more efficient process of glassmaking, called “Float Glass,” was invented and eventually replaced the Pennvernon process as the dominant way of making glass. Unable to adapt to this new glassmaking process, the factory was forced to close in 1976. What remains of the 89,250-square foot building today are a few crumbling walls and three elevator shafts, but the legacy of the industry it represents is alive and well in Ariel-Foundation Park.

  • Working Conditions

    You would have needed great connections to work in a glass factory in the early 20th century. Often and sometimes only through family ties, could you get a job in such a place.

    Glassworkers were paid well for the time, with men receiving 18 cents/hour, and women receiving 11 (CMoG). Women were usually utilized as detail/defect inspectors of finished pieces, while men actually worked on the floor. Though there is an obvious wage gap, in this context, the work was not “equal work.”The most common age range for younger workers was 14–17 (CMoG). Young boys were often needed, even though the legislation was in place to prevent them from working. These children were sometimes taken from orphanages and exploited as sources of income for their families or for cheap work. (utoledo)