Posted by: glassblockblogger | December 6, 2013

History of Glass Block’s Progression in the United States

Glass Block has an interesting history that began in the United Kingdom in the late 1800’s.  In 1937, Pittsburgh Corning began to  advance the glass brick product in beauty by developing the technology of FOAMGLAS® that made the first VUE® pattern possible. Pittsburgh Corning continued to develop the product’s application use by creating a glass block product that was hurricane resistant and energy efficient. Pittsburgh Corning did all of this while keeping their manufacturing plants within the United States.VUE by Pittsburgh Corning

Glass Block Beginnings

The Glass Block Technology of the United Kingdom states that in the 1880’s, hexagonal bodies with arched exteriors which could be composed into honeycomb constructions, were mouth-blown for partition and exterior walls. The hollow glass forms which were shaped like neckless bottles were initially worked with mortar. Great care was taken to place the open ends into the mortar in such a manner that the hollow area was hermetically sealed off against the outside air. Condensation could however seldom be prevented completely. These first mouth-blown blocks also suffered from such production deficiencies as differing wall thicknesses and thin corners.

Soon however, more robust machine-made blocks were offered by Luxfer-Prismen-Gesellschaft as well as Siemens in Dresden.

Glass block, also known as glass brick, became an effective architectural element in areas where privacy was desired while still admitting light. Areas that Glass Block was used were in underground parking garages, washrooms, and municipal swimming baths.

Their products consisted mainly of open hollow glass blocks which resembled the usual bricks in size and form. Albert Gerrer in Mulhouse was at the same time still manufacturing mouth-blown glass blocks using Falconnier process which however were sealed before the block cooled down with small glass plugs. Their form still resembled that of the hexagonal prototypes.

Pittsburgh Corning Opens Plant in Pennsylvania

In the 1930’s, further development of machine production produced more satisfactory types which were easier to work. The Corning-Steuben block, consisting of two halves of heat-proof glass pressed together. Modern glass blocks are still being produced according to this principle, namely that two molded-glass halves with a hollow interior are melted and fused together under high temperatures.

In 1937, Pittsburgh Corning was incorporated and built its first plant in Port Allegany, PA, for the production of the Decora® and Argus® Glass Block patterns. In the late 1950’s, Pittsburgh Corning continued its tradition of innovation by creating its first rectangular glass brick. This was followed by many innovative glass block styles, patterns, shapes, and sizes. To further advance the security value of glass block, in 2008, Pittsburgh Corning developed a hurricane resistant glass block window and a blast resistant glass block panel. In 2009, the Energy Efficient Glass Block panels are introduced as the newest LightWise® Architectural System.

For further details on the history of Pittsburgh Corning Glass Block, refer to History of Innovation

Today, the unique ambiance of Glass Block coupled with its functional privacy and security benefits make it incredibly popular in modern residential and commercial settings. Pittsburgh Corning Glass Block produces a versatile material that can be used in a variety of ways. To see the beauty that Glass Block has evolved into, look at the popular Glass Block available today at Eastern Glass Block.


  1. This was very interesting. I have had the opportunity to talk with plant workers and some of the locals at the plant in Port Allegheny Pa. About the history of the plant it’s self and how it has been the main employer in that community. Pittsburgh Corning is not just a community treasure but a national one as well. Thanks for sharing more of the history behind glass block in the states. I would like to share this on our face book page and I will be sure it includes you as author and the link to Eastern Glass Block.

Let us know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: