It took two years for the fledgling Libbey House Foundation to buy the Old West End home built by Toledo glass magnate Edward Drummond Libbey.
Three more years passed as plans were formulated to convert the 9,000-square-foot house into a learning center that will tell the story of how Toledo became the Glass City.
Elegant as it was when Mr. Libbey and his wife, Florence Scott Libbey, built it between 1894 and 1895, clean and fresh as if the owners might soon be arriving home, the house remains nearly unchanged since the foundation acquired it in 2008.
Philip Williams, chairman of the foundation, said the project is moving forward but requires patience. "We're operating in a very business-like way," he said. "We're trying to take one step at a time."
The foundation has solicited support from private donors and five major glass companies -- Libbey Inc., Owens-Illinois Inc., Pilkington North America owner Nippon Sheet Glass Co., Corning Inc., and Owens Corning -- and has raised close to $1 million. The group plans to begin a public fund-raising campaign this month.
"We're trying to have an exhibit that will increase the pride Toledo has in what it's done," Mr. Williams said. "The five companies we're talking about have annual sales in excess of $10 billion. They're very successful and they should be proud of it."
Another enthusiastic supporter of the Libbey House is its nearest and dearest neighbor, the Toledo Museum of Art.
Mr. and Mrs. Libbey, founders of the museum, donated the land where the museum sits as well as works of art they collected on their world travels. When Mr. Libbey died in 1925, he left $1 million to the museum for an endowment fund.
When his wife died in 1938, she left the majority of her estate to the museum. The house at Scottwood and Woodruff avenues was part of her estate. It was sold the same year and remained in private hands until the foundation bought it for $500,000 three years ago.
Carol Bintz, chief operating officer of the museum, said that over the years board members have talked about the possibility of the museum acquiring the founders' home, but it never made financial sense. She said museum officials are thrilled with the foundation's plans.
"It's a really unique way for the museum to work with the people at the Libbey House to tell a complete story about the history of glass in the Toledo area," Ms. Bintz said. "We each kind of own different parts of that story."
"The Libbey House is a perfect venue where they can tell the story of the glass industry in Toledo, and that partners well with the museum to tell the story about glass artistry and how particularly the studio-glass movement started in Ohio," she said.
Plans call for restoring the house's first floor to the way it looked about 1910 when the Libbeys lived there. The second and third floors are to be converted to a learning center filled with hands-on exhibits, video footage, photos, and extensive materials and records from the glass industry.
The foundation also is working with the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at the University of Toledo, which houses a large collection of records related to the glass industry in Toledo.
Robert Pollex, a member of the foundation board and a Wood County Common Pleas judge, said the Libbey House is perfectly situated to tell the story because of its proximity to the Glass Pavilion across the street and the art museum that benefited from the support of the Libbeys and other industrialists. Judge Pollex began his career as an applied research physicist for Libbey-Owens-Ford and does glass-blowing as a hobby.
"I think it's very important that we preserve that history, and it also serves as a learning center for innovation and how to evolve a single idea into multiple approaches," he said.
The foundation had hoped to have the house open by next spring when the art museum marks the 50th anniversary of the studio-glass movement and is host to the Glass Arts Society's 2012 conference. In part because the foundation parted company with the first consultant it hired to design the learning center exhibits, Mr. Williams said that is no longer a realistic goal.
It now is working out a contract with a new consultant, Magic Lantern of Pittsburgh, to design the exhibits. No work on the house is to occur until the plans for the second and third floors are finalized, he said.
Mr. Williams said the learning center will honor not only the Libbeys but all of the people -- some known, some virtually unknown -- who have played key roles in the glass industry.
"I want the people of Toledo to understand they've got something to really be proud of," he said. "We feel that the Libbey House will fill a tremendous need in Toledo for someplace to learn about the glass industry, which has been so important in the growth of Toledo."
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.