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Fenton Art Glass 100th anniversary celebration begins

 

July 30, 2005

 

By WAYNE TOWNER

Parkersburg News, Parkersburg, WV


WILLIAMSTOWN - The license plates of the parked cars tell the story: New York, New Jersey, Washington, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Indiana, Maryland, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee and others.

 

As Fenton Art Glass Co. celebrates 100 years of fine glass-making, the company has truly touched people from coast to coast and even beyond, according to company President George Fenton.

Carla Penazek and her family came from Rochester, N.Y., this weekend especially for the Centennial Celebration. They arrived Thursday and planned to stay through Sunday.

Penazek began collecting Fenton glass about four years ago after seeing one of the Fenton-themed programs on the QVC shopping network. Her favorites are the blue satin and blue roses designs, among others.

''I like the beauty and the different paintings and designs,'' she said.

This is Penazek's first visit to Williamstown and Fenton Art Glass. Her family had planned to visit in 2004, but initially had to postpone that trip. After learning about the Centennial Celebration planned this year, they decided to wait and make the trip this year to coincide with the special event. One of the first things they did was go on the factory tour to see the glass being made.

''It was very interesting. It was amazing to watch the process and see the workers and to imagine that it goes from molten glass to something so beautiful in so many different colors,'' Penazek said.

With the Centennial Celebration starting Friday, George Fenton said he was pleased with the early turnout for the event and was looking forward to the entire celebration, which runs through Tuesday.

Based on early reservations for some of the special events scheduled through the weekend, Fenton said a look at the geographic distribution of those show that people have come or will be coming from all over the country. A walk through the parking areas also shows a wide variety of license plates, beyond the common Ohio and West Virginia plates.

''The people who are here are from all over the country and some from around the world. I think there's a couple from Australia that I've seen and heard about,'' he said.

The Fenton company held the opening ceremony for the Centennial Celebration at noon Friday with remarks by Scott Fenton, vice president of sales and part of the fourth generation of Fenton family members working in the company, Williamstown Mayor Jean Ford, Marietta Mayor Michael Mullen and George Fenton. Prior to the opening remarks, Fenton employees planted a tree on the factory grounds in honor of the anniversary and to remember past employees.

Scott Fenton said many people have been working for the the past year and more to prepare for this weekend's Centennial Celebration.

''We've got a great weekend planned for everybody,'' he told the hundreds of people present as the celebration began Friday at noon.

Ford welcomed everyone present Friday at the factory.

''We are so proud to be here celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Fenton Art Glass Co.,'' she said.

Ford said the company has made many contributions to the community, including jobs, taxes and national exposure for Williamstown and the Mid-Ohio Valley. Beyond those, Ford said members of the Fenton family have been lifelong residents of Williamstown and are generous with time and money - both individually and as a company - to the community and many organizations in the community.

''We will always be indebted to the Fenton family and the Fenton company for the role they have played in the continued growth of the city of Williamstown,'' she said.

Mullen said Fenton's Centennial event is a fantastic milestone.

''When I think of tradition, a hundred years of family business in this crazy world that we live in, is just an incredible thing,'' he said.

The Fenton company moved to West Virginia in 1907. The family considers May 5, 1905, the day it began when Frank L. and John Fenton deposited $284.86 into a savings account in Wheeling as their first commitment to the company.

Fenton began as a glass decorating company before the brothers discovered the cost and other benefits of producing glass for themselves. In 1907, the company moved into a factory in Williamstown. Today, Fenton Art Glass remains a family business, including management by members of the fourth generation, and 400 employees.

Th parking lots near the factory have been opened for the public and employees are parking elsewhere and bussed to work. The company received permission from Jeff Martin (owner of The Silos and Painter's Crossing) for more parking in his green area between the Silos and West Virginia 14.

 

[PHOTO CAPTION ABOVE]

The Fenton Art Glass Co. Centennial Celebration includes sales of Fenton glass and other crafts through Tuesday at Fenton Art Glass Co. in Williamstown. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

 

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Visitors to Fenton Art Glass will find a spacious Gift Shop and a pleasant museum. Free factory tours (M-F 8:15am to 4:00pm) take small groups of guests right out to the factory floor to see glassmaking "up close and personal." Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides explain all aspects of the operation. The Fenton tour has been ranked among the "top 10" factory tours nationwide by USA Today. In addition we have been named Rand McNally Best of the Road for 2006. For a factory tour schedule, click here. For a map, click here.

 

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