The Glass Trail Boom & Bust

When workers, looking for coal in 1876, drilled a hole into the ground near the East Central Indiana town of Eaton (now part of Muncie), a loud noise and an odious smell convinced some that they had discovered hell instead. Corking up the hole, the workers walked away from their find not realizing its significance until eight years later when natural gas, found in Ohio, was reported in Indiana papers. Suddenly the Indiana gas boom was on.

The gas, many thought, would last forever and despite warnings that it was being wasted and legislative actions to limit flambeaus – flames lit at the top of each well – the practice continued and that, coupled with other wasteful practices, brought the boom to a bust by the early 1900s.

Retrace this history by following the Indiana Glass Trail as it travels through 17 counties, showcasing the best the boom brought to 19th century Indiana.

When the Ball family made their fortune, they chose to build mansions on the north bank of the White River, a place which for centuries, poised on two busy historic roadways – Wheeling and Grandville Pikes – had long been a place to meet. Now a 40-acre tract of that land, named Minnetrista which means gathering place by the water, hosts a museum, a cultural center, extensive gardens, a popular farmers’ market and daily tours of the G.A. Ball House.

The House of Glass in tiny Elwood is the offshoot of the gas boom in Madison County. John St. Clair, an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine France, worked as a master gaffer at a glass factory back at the turn of the last century. The company thrived for decades, evolving into the House of Glass which sells artisan glass items that are reflective of Elwood’s glass heritage.

There are four collections of Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows within a five block area of Richmond including the Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church with its interior and 62 Tiffany windows.

Columbus is known as one of the most architecturally significant cities in the country but it’s also big on glass. There are two Dale Chihuly installations in town including the 9-foot yellow chandelier in the Columbus Area Visitors Center.  Beyond that, the 1900 Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor and Museum in the city’s downtown features wonderful antique glass lamps, windows and chandeliers.

For information about other stops along the trail, visit www.indianaglasstrail.com