SPECIALIST REPAIRS DAMAGE TO 80-YEAR-OLD BLACK GLASS ON STOREFRONT OF HAMILTON'S
by Candace Cooksey Fulton
October 16, 2009
Photo by Candace Cooksey Fulton
Timothy Dunn of St. Louis shines the black glass along the storefront at Hamilton's on Thursday. According to Dunn, his company is the only supply source in the world for the pigmented plate glass, which has not been manufactured new since the 1950s.
Considering how bad it could be, the opaque black glass surrounding the front of Hamilton's could be in much worse shape.
Sure, the storm May 8 cracked its share of panes above the store windows. And below the windows, there was a pane cracked from the building settling, a few nicks here and there and a need for repointing. But all in all, the probably 80-year-old glass is in good shape.
"Skateboarders can really do some damage, but that hasn't happened here," said Timothy Dunn, whose business card identifies him as a "Vitrolite specialist," and who is in Brownwood this week replacing the glass damaged in last May's storm on the Hamilton's storefront.
Dunn's specialty takes him all over the world. there are no other Vitrolite specialists.
Vitrolite is a pigmented plate glass frequently used in the 1920s and '30s in many art deco style storefronts and theaters. Dunn said thee are a number of buildings in Brownwood with the opaque mirror-like glass facades. At Hamilton's the glass is black and black is one of the 32 colors that were manufactured. Red, several shades of blue "and every shade of green you can imagine" were ll part of the color palette, as were beiges and browns.
What's tricky, is that no company has manufactured the glass since the 1950s. The panes Dunn and his apprentice Hank Falkenberg will replace on the Hamilton's storefront were salvaged from a store in Maryland.
Baring storms, skateboards and buildings settling over time, the pigmented plate glass seems to "last forever," Dunn said. "We come in for a restoration, replace what's broken, repoint around the corners and polish and it's beautiful."
Dunn, an "old tile and brick man," said he met a man sometime in the '80s who was installing, replacing and repairing Vitrolite and that's how he got started.
"That man retired and I started specializing in the Vitrolite – gave up the tile and brick work in the late '90s," Dunn said.
"Years ago my wife said, 'Are we going to run out?' She was worried I wouldn't have a job. Now she says, 'When are we going to run out?' She'd like me home, some. But we keep getting jobs. We've done theater renovations all over the U.S., sent Vitrolite all over the world," Dunn said. "It's a specialty for sure."
Brownwood isn't exactly unheard of for Dunn. He's been to places far more obscure.
"In Brownwood I can visit with my brother and his wife. Do you know Dr. John Dunn? We just had lunch together."