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News Coverage of Vitrolite and Tim Dunn

Vitrolite in the Headlines

Hoover Dam is latest job for St. Louis' Vitrolite Man
Tim Dunn restores the Vitrolite walls of the Hoover Dam's restrooms

Glimmers of History
Exterior of Bert's downtown drugstore back in high shine (Hastings, NE)

Early Vitrolite Corner Signs are Bringing New Collectors
Check out this article on Vitrolite from the September 2, 2013 issue of Antique Week featuring Vitrolite Specialist's Tim Dunn.

Coastland Apartments
The Vitrolite Specialist restores the bathrooms of this apartment building on the south side of Chicago.

Vitrolite Man Visits Ottawa
Tim Dunn restores the facade of a building on West Madison street in Ottawa, Illinois.

Owner Keeps Vintage Look for Local Building
Tim Dunn and crew restore the Vitrolite paneling on the Stumpp Building in downtown Mt. Vernon, IL.

Grand Theatre
Tim and Hank install a Vitrolite facade on the Grand Theatre in Grand Island. This is the largest Vitrolite installation since the 1950s!

Charleston Diner
Tim restores the Vitrolite facade of the Quarrier Diner in Charleston, West Virginia.

St. Louis Bathroom
Tim reinstalls a customer's Vitrolite in their newly renovated bathroom.

Apollo Theatre
The glass facade of this Oberlin theater is restored by Vitrolite Specialist.

Chicago Home
Tim Dunn restores the Vitrolite around a fireplace in Sherry Wiesman's Chicago home.

Alhambra Theater
Vitrolite replaced in the vestibule of the Alhambra Theater in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Maplewood Home
Tim Dunn installs Vitrolite in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room of a home in Maplewood, Missouri.

Hamilton's Storefront
Tim Dunn repairs damage to 80-Year-Old Black Glass on Storefront of Hamilton's in Brownwood, Texas.

Artcraft Theatre
The Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, Indiana was restored with various Vitrolite techniques by Tim Dunn.

The Future Antiques
South Saint Louis storefront remodeled with Vitrolite.

New Use for an Old Tile
Tim Dunn restores a home in Ladue, MO.

Pieces of the Past
Tim Dunn restores storefronts in Palestine, TX.

Makeover Aims to Light up Downtown
Tim Dunn restores the Zoe Theater in Pittsfield, IL.

A GLASS BY ITSELF
Vitrolite finds itself once again in demand – an article from the Kansas City Star.

Rivoli Theatre
Tim Dunn in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, restoring the Vitrolite on the Rivoli Theatre.

Glass Rejuvenated at Former Gibson Building
Tim Dunn in Appleton, Wisconsin, working on the former Gibson building.

Vitrolite Needed for Deco Theater Refurb
Vitrolite restoration of the Augusta Historic Theatre.

Visiting Specialist Fixes Old-Style Glass
Tim in Mt. Vernon, Il.

Vitrolite: Glass and class of the past Art glass of yesteryear offers a beautiful choice....

The Oman of Vitrolite All about Tim Dunn's work with pigmented structural glass from the Old House Web....

A Modern-Day Vitrolite Mine by Edelene Wood West Virginia's Parkersburg-Vienna area was a well-known source of world famous Vitrolite glass manufacturers in the decades of 1907-1937....

Vitrolite Man Vitrolite, that opaque glass tile common in fine St. Louis ....

Gala at Gem Theatre Marks Cultural Renaissance The Gem's red and gold marquee, standing tough in defiance of decades of decay, was alive again...

Ritz Theater Director Travels West to Gather Ideas for Talladega Antique Talladega Executive Director George Culver has just returned from a four-week, 5,600-mile driving tour....

Luck Helps Man Find Microniche If you'd ask Tim Dunn to fill out a survey stating his profession, he'd have a problem.  You see, what Dunn does lies outside the box....

Tim Dunn and Vitrolite: Each One of a Kind During the 1920's through the 1940's Vitrolite was used on the exterior of many buildings, especially theaters, as well as....

Visitor to Help Salvage State Theatre Glass During the 1920's through the 1940's Vitrolite was used on the exterior of many buildings, especially theaters, as well as....

Hoover Dam is latest job for St. Louis' Vitrolite Man

by Tim Bryan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 15, 2013
Click here to read the story at stltoday.com

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Vitrolite Man, aka Tim Dunn, stands alone when it comes to salvaging and restoring shiny, colorful Art Deco glass.

Need proof?

The U.S. Interior Department determined that Dunn’s Vitrolite Specialist Inc., of Maplewood, is the only company with the experience, expertise and material able to restore the Vitrolite walls of the public restrooms atop Hoover Dam.

As a result, the government has awarded Vitrolite Specialist a “single-source” contract to redo the glass walls of the 1930s men’s and women’s restrooms.

Vitrolite is a structural glass once popular in Art Deco homes and on storefronts across the country. Production ended in the early 1950s and, as the Interior Department notes in classic bureaucratese, Dunn’s company is now the go-to source for Vitrolite and the skill to install it.

In its May 15 decision to hire Dunn’s company, the Interior Department also said: “The Vitrolite Specialist is the only company in the U.S. that has a sufficient supply of Vitrolite paneling in the colors and sizes needed for the Top-of-Dam Restrooms.”

Use of Vitrolite and other pigmented structural glass reached its zenith in the 1920s and 1930s as Americans swooned over Art Deco’s sleek, alluring curves. The Vitrolite Co. based in Chicago, made its product in Parkersburg, W.Va.

The special glass, mechanically ground to a mirror finish, gained some of its popularity in the 1930s when the Roosevelt administration helped storekeepers remodel their storefronts as a way to stimulate the economy during the Depression. A government program helped small-business owners pay to modernize their shops.

A few years ago, Dunn put a curved window, Art Deco touch on his base of operation, a former street-corner confectionery built in 1934. The main floor and basement are crammed with what he estimates is more than 20 tons of Vitrolite, all carefully cleaned, sorted, stacked and shelved.

Throughout the building are pieces marked “Hoover Dam.” After Thanksgiving, Dunn and his helpers will load the 700 square feet of Vitrolite into a trailer and haul it 1,600 miles to the enormous concrete structure that has plugged the Colorado River since 1935.

Not only is Hoover Dam a construction and engineering marvel, it is a National Historic Landmark with numerous Art Deco flourishes.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the public restrooms on top of the dam. Black Vitrolite covers the walls of the men’s room. Jade Vitrolite decorates the two-story women’s room.

The men’s room replacement black Vitrolite is coming from the ground floor of the Lofts at OPOP, formerly the St. Louis School Board, at 901 Locust Street downtown. A Vitrolite Specialist crew removed the shiny black panels this month.

The Vitrolite, installed decades ago in a storefront remodeling, came down as part of the building owner’s plan to redo the storefronts of the 1890s structure.

Bob Burk, whose Chicago-based UrbanStreet Group bought the building a year ago, said Thursday the storefronts will get new windows and a more modern look.

With the needed black Vitrolite in hand, Dunn tapped his vast network of Vitrolite hunters for jade-colored glass. He found some never-used jade Vitrolite in a Denver warehouse.

His Hoover Dam job is to restore 75-year-old restroom walls marred by graffiti and, according to the Interior Department, damaged by plexiglass installed years ago in a misguided repair effort. The government will pay Vitrolite Specialist $131,000 to redo restroom walls and other public areas inside the dam.

Dunn said the dam job, which will take a month, is the second-largest his company has undertaken. The largest, done last year, was to put more than 1,500 square feet of Vitrolite on the front of an old movie theater in Grand Island, Neb.

Appreciation of Art Deco’s elegant forms is making a comeback, said Dunn, who began collecting Vitrolite in 1985. As his collection grew, he took on more jobs to install Vitrolite at theaters, other commercial spaces and in residential kitchens and bathrooms across the country.

“You get into something and you keep going, you know?” he said.

Dunn, 60, got the Vitrolite collecting bug and learned how to cut and install the special glass as an apprentice to a Vitrolite expert who retired more than a decade ago. He said he jokes with his wife, Geri Redden, that his primacy in the Vitrolite business makes him a “national treasure.”

“She told me that only musicians and artists get to be national treasures,” Dunn said. “That’s not fair. I’m the only one doing this stuff.”

Vitrolite Specialist remains small. Redden is a partner in the company. Daughter Cheryl Akers is the bookkeeper. The firm also employs a warehouse worker, a subcontractor and a new Vitrolite Man in waiting.

“I’ve had an apprentice for nine years,” Dunn said.