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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....

Vitrolite finds itself once again in demand

By MONICA WATROUS
The Kansas City Star


A few years ago Valerie Schroer and her husband were relieved to find a solution to their tile problem: St. Louis-based Vitrolite expert Tim Dunn. Dunn finished replacing the tile in their cream-and-black bathroom last year. “Our whole bathroom is surrounded in this tile,” Schroer said. “It was so pretty, we just wanted to put it back up.”

In its day, it was the head of the glass.

Structural pigmented glass, known as Vitrolite and by other trade names, was an architectural darling of the 1920s and ’30s. Storefronts and home interiors were tiled with it, giving them the sexy, shiny, streamlined look so popular in Art Deco and Art Moderne styles.

The material was touted for its versatility and as a lighter, more durable alternative to marble. And compared to today’s glass tile – thinner, clear and often back-painted – Vitrolite has a richer, more polished appearance.

“The depth of tone is different than if you just have a piece of glass over paint,” said Tim Dunn, a Vitrolite specialist based in St. Louis. “There’s a vibrancy and a lusciousness that you don’t get with back-painted glass. It stays nice and fresh and glossy.”

So, why don’t more of us have this material in our homes?

Well, for starters, it hasn’t been produced in America since 1947.

Dunn is one of a handful in the country who salvages, restores and installs the obsolete material, which he describes as the siding of its time.

And thanks to this elite cluster of experts, folks who already have the glass in their homes can keep it.

Like Valerie Schroer, who, about five years ago, had to remove part of the Vitrolite in her Kansas City bathroom due to a plumbing problem.

“We tried to save the tile but couldn’t,” Schroer said. “We did a search on the Internet to find replacements, and we found Tim Dunn.”

Dunn restored the tile in the cream-and-black bathroom of the Schroer house, which was built in the late ’30s.

“I’ve talked to neighbors since who have taken (Vitrolite) out and didn’t know there was someone out there who could replace it or fix it,” Schroer said. “We want people to know how neat it is and how valuable historically.”

The splendor in the glass isn’t just its rich hue and history.

“It’s easy to clean, and it doesn’t hold germs,” Dunn said. “It’s not absorbent, so it’s very sanitary.”

While marble is porous and can harbor bacteria, glass was championed for its hygiene. It became a mainstay in bathrooms and kitchens. Its nonporous surface also resists stains, Dunn added.

“We just wipe it down – not a lot of maintenance,” said Sinnamon Rhoades, whose kitchen, paved entirely in white glass, was one of the selling points for her and her husband, John, of their 1933 Kansas City home.

But is Vitrolite really all it’s cracked up to be? Sure. Unless it cracks.

“It is glass, so it can break,” Dunn said. “If someone opens a door too fast or, say, a skateboard hits a piece.”

Other than fragility, drawbacks include its limited availability.

“Even in its day, it wasn’t cheap,” he said. But now, homeowners who seek a specific color from Dunn have to hope it’s among his stash, 15 tons of tile in his basement workshop.

His collection also includes Vitrolite soap dishes, cup holders, toilet paper holders, towel bars, medicine cabinets, toilets and lavatories. He salvages the sleek panels all over the country from people who just don’t have the heart to throw them away.

Dunn, who abandoned his job as a tile setter in 1997 to work exclusively with Vitrolite, keeps plenty busy, between international demand for the glass and national calls for his services. While the bulk of his work is restoration of glass in homes and businesses, 5 percent of his clients request installation.

“They like the look,” he said, “and we can do it. You can get a bathroom that looks like it’s from the 1920s.”

The structural glass fell out of favor during World War II as production costs rose and different tastes emerged.

But to those who still have it, Dunn urges: Keep it.

You can get a historic preservation tax credit, he said, plus you'll be protecting a rare part of yesteryear.

“Why do people save log cabins?” Dunn said. “You’re saving a little piece of history.”