April may be Michigan Glass Month, but glass is a big deal year round in Toledo, Ohio.
I can readily find Libbey's glassware in Detroit-area stores, and the company sells its product at department stores, grocery stores, and other businesses throughout the United States and Canada, but I still find the trip an hour or so south of home to shop the Libbey Glass Outlet in downtown Toledo a trip worth making every year or so.
My favorite Halloween glasses, decorated with grinning orange jack-o-lanterns, and my tall flamingo-adorned glasses came from the Libbey outlet, back when it was a much smaller store located closer to the factory.
Today, the 16,000-square-foot warehouse-style store stocks glassware, dinnerware, flatware, gift, and decor pieces, with much of the stock deeply discounted off of retail prices.
You may want to remember that the deep discounts may be on discontinued items, so you should make sure you get the pieces you want while you're there as they may be difficult to replace with the same items later.
The outlet even has a small section of Toledo books and souvenirs, so if you need an Ohio shot glass or book about the history of Ohio baseball, you can get it there.
Meanwhile, Libbey (the company and the family) played an integral role in the history and development of business, art, and culture in Toledo.
Edward Drummond Libbey moved his family's company, New England Glass Works, to Toledo in 1888. Toledo's plentiful supply of natural gas, sand, cheap building sites, strong railroad system, and available workers made it an ideal place to move the family firm. The glass industry out East was highly competitive, and the lack of competitors in Toledo also helped Libbey's firm grow and thrive in Ohio.
By 1892, New England Glass Works became the Libbey Glass Company and continued to build its specialty in affordable glass tableware.
Edward and Florence Libbey lived in a large Colonial revival-style home in Toledo's Old West End. The Old West End still exists today as a twenty-five block historic neighborhood with one of the largest collections of intact late-Victorian homes in the United States where we also periodically visit to admire the homes and take photographs. The Libbey Home still anchors the neighborhood and overlooks the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Libbey House Foundation plans to eventually open the restored home to the public for tours and events.
The Libbeys both had a strong interest in the arts, and Edward, in particular, worked to amass a collection to illustrate the development of glass from antiquity to modern times. In 1901, the couple helped found the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA). Edward left his private glass collection to the museum, along with an endowment, when he died in 1925.
Today, the TMA is well known for its historic collection of glass, as well as early and enduring involvement in the Studio Glass Movement. The movement started as an effort to explore how artists could create work from molten glass in art studios, rather than factories. The TMA became the first museum to build a facility and studio dedicated to teaching glass working techniques in 1969. In 2006, the TMA opened its Glass Pavilion, which the museum Web site describes as a "state-of-the-art facility to house, care for, study, and display" its famed glass collection.
The Old West End, Libbey Home, and the TMA are all a short drive from the Libbey Glass Outlet, making a visit to all of them an easy day trip from the Detroit area for us.
My favorite time to visit the glass outlet is in the summer
or fall because the store is right across the street from the Toledo Farmers
Market, so you can finish the day by picking up some veggies and other regional
eats before heading home.
Want to learn more? Check out these books about Toledo's history, architecture, glass industry, and art museum:
Glass in Northwest Ohio by Quentin R. Skrabec Jr.
Toledo: A History in Architecture 1890-1914 by William D. Speck
Toledo: The 19th Century by Barbara L. Floyd
Toledo: The 20th Century by Barbara L. Floyd
Toledo Museum of Art (Maps & Guides) by Paula Reich
© Dominique King 2010 All rights reserved