One of Indiana’s finest experiences is the Stained Glass Trail through the northern part of the state. The history of glass in Indiana is due in part to the discovery of natural gas in the 1880s. The first significant commercial gas well appeared on September 15, 1886 in Eaton, Indiana.
This discovery covered an area of 5,000 square miles. Enjoy traveling through small farming towns and large cities while exploring their glorious treasures of stained glass. Combined, they lay down a wonderful treasure trail of the natural gas phenomenon, the history of glass, and stained glass sites in northern Indiana and beyond.
Note: A few of the listed places I have been to on tour packages. However, all opinions are my own.
With 23 glass factories, Dunkirk has been dubbed the “Glass Capital of Indiana”. Stop at the Dunkirk Glass Museum. Their website shares, “There are over 20,000 pieces of glassware from 110 factories around the world currently on display at the museum. We have glass that was made locally at Indiana Glass in Dunkirk and other factories in the area, including 25 leaded lamps, 25 leaded windows and an exhibit of goblet plates, which were mostly made on East cost.”
The small museum is connected to the library. I only saw the museum from the outside window but I want to come back.
There is also a memorial to Benjamin E. Rubrect, the first secretary of the Flint Glass Workers Union of North America. He was an active member from the union’s inception in July 1878 until his death in 1922.
Dunkirk also has a mural by artist Pamela Bliss depicting the glass capital with an image of the Dunkirk Speedcat train.
Pro Tip: Stop and dine at the Glass Capital Grill. Tried the pork chops and loved them!
Portland is in Jay County. Construction of the Jay County Courthouse began in 1915 and was completed in 1919. Constructed of Bedford stone with beautiful columns, the courthouse has marble walls and floors. There is an amazing stained glass skylight in the dome. The courthouse sports brass entrance doors and has four historic paintings, making it a great stop on the stained glass trail.
The Jay County Historical Society Museum in Portland features gas boom artifacts and history. This museum is one of many sites listed on the Jay County Gas Boom Driving Tour.
Also on the Gas Boom Driving Tour is Ashbury Methodist Church, which offers beautiful stained glass windows. Construction began during the gas boom in 1897, but due to funding, took years. The windows are amazing!
The Elwood Haynes mural, painted by Pamela Bliss, is located at Meridian and Arch streets. The mural shares information about Jay County’s most notable inventor. The gas boom pamphlet states, “Elwood Haynes invented the first horseless carriage and many tools that were instrumental in Jay County’s natural gas boom. Elwood was born in Portland in 1857 and moved his family to Kokomo after the gas boom.
Stop at the Jay County Fairgrounds to see Floral Hall. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, built in 1883 and completed in 1891, Floral Hall is a 2.5-story octagonal frame building that is also on the Gas Dam Trail!
When natural gas was discovered in Kokomo, it sparked an industrial revolution in the city. Today, it results in many wonderful stops. The Indiana Natural Gas Company leased 23,000 acres of land. Assuming that gas production would last a few hundred years, they invited companies to come to Kokomo offering free gas. One company drawn to town was the Kokomo Opalescent Gas Co.
Charles Edward Henry was born in Paris in 1846 and eventually came to the United States, beginning his career as an expert glass chemist in New York. When he heard about the gas boom, he came to Kokomo. Production began at the Kokomo Opalescent Gas Co. on November 13, 1888. Today, it is the oldest glass factory in the United States and the only one that still hand-mixes its 22,000 colors. Book a visit and enjoy their amazing gift shop.
The Howard County Museum and the Seiberling Mansion are all beautiful places! The gas boom brought Monroe Seiberling to Kokomo. Founder of the Diamond Plate Glass Company, which was at one time the largest plate glass factory in the country, Seiberling also started Kokomo Strawboard and other factories.
Seiberling began building this Queen Anne and Romanesque architectural masterpiece in 1889, completing it in the fall of 1891. The natural gas-heated house’s woodwork includes oak, walnut, maple, cherry, mahogany and tulip poplar.
The George Kingston family has lived here the longest. Kingston, an agricultural and automotive giant, invented the carburetor used in Ford’s Model T. Kingston Products made roller skates and a range of other items. After the Kingstons left, the mansion became Indiana University Kokomo until 1965.
In 1972, the building, the Elliott House (which they use for events), and the two carriage houses were donated to the Howard County Historical Society. Through renovations, this home and its contents tell the story of the gas boom and the history of Howard County.
One of the buildings of the former Diamond Plate Glass factory is now an antiques mall, the Original Treasure Mart. The building is a treasure that has been preserved and is filled with antiques.
Metallurgist, inventor and automotive designer Elwood Haynes was born in Portland and moved to Kokomo. He became the manager of the Natural Gas Company when he invented the thermostat and a refrigeration device. Traveling on horseback, he tires of long distances and draws the plans for the horseless carriage. On July 4, 1894, he took his first ride in a gasoline-powered horseless carriage.
Thus, Haynes invented the first commercially successful gasoline-powered automobile in the United States in 1894. The Elwood Haynes Museum offers both a tour of the house and an overview of his inventions. During a visit, you can also see one of his cars on display.
Pro Tip: Dine at the Half Moon Brewery and sample excellent prawns and creamed corn. The Irish pub, Cook McDoogals, located in the historic city center, offers excellent fish and chips and a beautiful stained glass window.
Wabash, Indiana is a charming river town. The Visit Wabash County Visitor Center features beautiful stained glass windows from the Opalescent Glass Factory. The building next door, Modoc’s, also has this beautiful factory stained glass window.
Carrie Steinweg of Chicago Foodie Sisters and I were hosted at the Sanctuary Overnight Event Hub. This amazing place is a Gothic-style church from 1903 turned into a center for night-time events. Located just blocks from historic downtown Wabash, Indiana, it takes your breath away. The beautiful wooden doors, furnishings and state-of-the-art kitchen only add to the charm.
The historic Eagles Theater is a wonderful treasure. Although there are no stained glass windows, this venue, originally built in 1906, is now a five-story building housing a nostalgic theater for movies and shows.
Pro tip: If you run when you’re in town, take a Wabash County Trolley Tour!
Fort Wayne is outside the gas boom area; however, they have amazing glass buildings and sights. The Allen County Courthouse, a National Historic Landmark, is known for its murals, sculptures, faux scagliola marbles, unique tile floors, and extensive stained glass windows. The central dome itself is 20 feet long and weighs 200 pounds.
There is a revival of public arts and murals downtown. Follow the public art trail pass. My favorite art is an aisle sculpture called “77 Steps” which features over 300 tubes suspended with colored lights that run the length of the aisle.
Catch an event at the beautifully renovated Embassy Theatre.
Pro Tip: Stay at the Bradley Hotel, conveniently located near public art, the courthouse and the Embassy Theatre.
The opalescent glass factory has repaired Tiffany glass over the years. The Reid Center (formerly Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church) has more Tiffany glass than anywhere I’ve ever seen. Every window in the old church is Tiffany! Today, the Reid Center is a performing arts venue and community center. It is a National Historic Landmark.
The Wayne County Historical Museum has everything from cars to an Egyptian mummy. Julia Gaar created the museum. It was his family that created the Gaar Scott steam engines and threshers.
The Model T Museum is a must see in Richmond. My favorite item was the 1922 homemade snowmobile that delivered mail 60 miles every day.
Pro Tip: Stay at the eco-friendly Seldom Scene Meadow B&B, which runs on solar electricity and passive solar hot water. I was accommodated in this bed and breakfast with a wonderful view.
7. The City of Cambridge
Pamela Bliss has a mural of President Lincoln’s funeral train that stopped in Cambridge City. High Hat Antique Mall was also a fun stop in this town full of antiques.
Cambridge City sits along the trunk road and is named after the city of Cambridge, England. Home to several antique shops, the town has grown due to the location of the Whitewater Canal.
The town is famous for Overbeck Art pottery, which was made from 1911 to 1955.
As you meander through northern Indiana, here are some of the sights you can see along the Gas Boom Trail and beyond.
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