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The Bronze Look brings 100 year W.Va. legacy, Fenton Glass, to Princeton's historic district

June 2006

 

By TAMMIE TOLER

Princeton Times, Princeton, WV

 

Princeton - This year, Fenton glass will celebrate 100 years in West Virginia, and pieces of that legacy are now available in Princeton's historic district.

Randolph Evans opened The Bronze Look last year as a coin and art shop on East Mercer Street, but since then the store has evolved to a collector's gallery featuring unique currency, prints and Fenton glass.

Grace Fenton, a regional representative and member of the Fenton family, visited The Bronze Look last Friday. As she sat outside the store, just yards from the nearly complete Princeton Railroad Museum and across the street from the former Stag clothing store that was recently refurbished and turned into Kidz at Heart Day Care Center, Fenton said East Mercer Street's character and past made it the perfect place to showcase Fenton Glass's unique pieces and intricate artistry.

"The minute I saw your site, I knew I was going to love your store. It's very homey here," Fenton said.

Although the building Evans' store occupies was built in 1915, roughly nine years after Fenton Glass created its Williamstown factory, she said the company and Princeton's historic district were a good fit.

Princeton's development in the early 1900s centered around the Virginian Railroad's extension through the area now adjoining East Mercer Street and running under the present-day Thorn Street. Much like that history is a piece of present-day Princeton, Fenton said her company's pieces are part of their collectors' lives.

"Collectors love to get compliments on their pieces, and we're proud that they're not only parts of our collections, but also that each piece is a part of who we are," she said.

The Fenton Art Glass Company was founded in 1905 by Frank L. Fenton and his brother John W. Fenton, who began painting designs on other manufacturer's blanks in Martins Ferry, Ohio. Before long, the brothers decided to start their own glass manufacturing company, and they began working on the Williamstown factory. On Jan. 2, 1907, the West Virginia factory produced its first piece of glass, and the Fenton family, traditions and artwork have been part of the Mountain State's culture ever since.

Fenton, a collector herself, said she enjoys trinkets, the ornate, tiny boxes that hold jewelry or other small treasures.

"Each piece is a reminder of who I am and what I was enjoying at that time," she said.

One of her most precious pieces came from Frank Fenton's estate, a ruby carnival trinket with a butterfly on the lid.

"It is the most beautiful trinket I have ever see, but it's also a piece of him," Fenton said.

She said the unique colors, intricate designs and handcrafted art are some of the qualities that make Fenton glass special.

In addition, the pride and time Fenton employees put into their pieces shines through the glass, Fenton said.

"It's hard to fully appreciate one piece of glass just by looking at it," she said, citing one piece could require 19 to complete.

Evans said he will coordinating a tour of the Fenton Art Glass Factory Aug. 15. Cost of the trip will be $75 and will include the bus ride, lunch with the Fenton family, a tour of the facility and more. For more information on the trip, contact Evans at 304-920-2081.

[PHOTO CAPTION ABOVE]

Mountain glass...On Jan. 2, 1907, the Williamstown, W.Va. factory produced its first piece of glass. Here, Grace Fenton and Randolph Evans examine a piece of Fenton's art glass. Photo by Tammie Toler

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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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