Northwood Art Glass Company


Northwood Art Glass Company

bySusan Haddad

Sitting Elizabeth Northwood Robb with her best friend Tammy, Standing is Northwood's Susan Haddad.

David Mckinley holding new Northwood "Grape & Cable" whimsey... 1st day of sampling. 10/14/98

White plaster model by Jon Saffell and reverse blue resin mould by Wheeling's Island Mould...both used to manufacturer the final 3 part iron mould used for firing.

The history of The H. Northwood Glass Co. can be found in any Carnival Glass reference book, but there it ends.

The new NorthWood Art Glass Company has enjoyed more than nine months of success! Offering this exquisite new Grape and Cable vase, NorthWood has gained the valued support of both old and new glass collectors from every region of the country.

Wheeling resident, David McKinley, turned dreams to reality laying the groundwork necessary to revive an art made famous by his ancestors. Harry Northwood and his younger brother, Carl, McKinley's great grandfather, owned and operated The Northwood Glass Company from the late 1800's through 1925. Now nearly seventy-five years later, David McKinley is designing new NorthWood Art Glass.

A life-long resident of Wheeling, David grew up with Northwood glass as close as his cereal bowl. David, and his four brothers are great grandsons of Carl and Rose Northwood. David's mother, Millie, and Elizabeth Northwood Robb (Harry's granddaughter) are cousins and grew up together. McKinley and his family have Sunday dinners with "Aunt Betty Robb" (Elizabeth Northwood Robb) at least twice a month.

David is a passionate advocate of family and West Virginia...particularly, Wheeling. News of the NorthWood Art Glass company revival was not a complete surprise to those who knew him. This was on the drawing board for years, but as you can imagine, blue prints are one thing... reality is another.

Preservation and restoration are familiar terms to McKinley. Bringing NorthWood Art Glass Company back was the icing on the cake.

After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in Engineering, McKinley joined a large industrial engineering and design firm here in Wheeling. While there he received Engineer of the Year award from the WV Engineering Society. A few years later, David made the decision to venture out on his own. What began as a one-man operation in 1979 is now one of West Virginia's largest engineering and architectural design firms. (McKinley and Associates)

An advocate of historic preservation, David began to purchase, renovate and restore older, dilapidated, homes built in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Wheeling's architecture is rich in Victorian style homes and until the early '80s, many were left to the bulldozer. Each house that David has restored has won various awards from preservation and restoration societies.

Nearly 2 years ago, McKinley tackled his largest project. With 3 partners, he met the challenge of restoring Wheeling's 5 story YMCA building that had been built in 1906. It too had been neglected for years, vacant, and a giant eyesore. Renamed The Maxwell Centre, today 4 companies occupy the five floors. It is now home to both McKinley and Associates and the NorthWood Art Glass Company.

McKinley and Associates has just learned that they have won the Governor's Award for Historical Preservation for that particular restoration.

 All these factors led to the challenge of the NorthWood Art Glass Company. It was only after success with these smaller projects, that McKinley felt comfortable with the decision to go forward with of the NorthWood Art Glass Company. It's one thing to wish something... and another to make it work.

McKinley designed the first piece of new Northwood glass. The decision to design new "old" Northwood came in part through the advice of many old Carnival collectors and close advisors. Dr. Jim Measell, author of several Northwood books and Carnival Glass expert has been a valued friend of Ms. Elizabeth Robb for years. He and the many collectors consulted with along the way voiced an overwhelming cry to forget about firing any old moulds. A number of companies had done that over the years and only confused the collector. Wanting to honor Harry in someway led to the decision to design a contemporary version of the popular "Grape and Cable". It seemed the best way to depict a new era and honor the old at the same time.

Once the design was completed on paper, a local artisan was engaged to make a clay and plaster mock up. Jon Saffell was hired to perform that task. John is local, has his own studio, and works for Fenton Glass as well. He did a wonderful job. It was from Jon's model that the iron mould was made. Another Wheeling company, Island Mould, was responsible for the manufacture of the 3 part mould. John and Tom Weishar are third generation owners who are experts in the mould business.

From the time David made the move to go forward, we began talking to various glass houses. Sooner or later, the mould would be fired. In March of 1998, we met with The Fenton Glass company in Williamstown, WV. Both David and 1 were on the floor in early November watching the first sampling from the mould! Both the iridized plum and cobalt were into production by mid-November 1998.

The design for NorthWood's "Second-in-a-Series" is on the drawing board.