A 27,000 square foot, two-story brick Neoclassical building built on Dixie Highway in Rossford in 1917.
Known locally as "The Ford Club," the Edward Ford Plate Glass Company Employee Relations Building is a 27,000 square foot, two-story brick Neoclassical building built on Dixie Highway in Rossford in 1917.
Ed Ford, whose family helped launch the U. S. glass industry, arrived in Northwest Ohio in 1898 after he and his father left Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG). Ford purchased 173 acres of farmland along the east bank of the Maumee River, just south of Toledo in Wood County, to build a plate glass factory. In August of that year, the Edward Ford Plate Glass Company broke ground, and a new business and a new community blossomed. Ford's new shop made its first cast of plate glass on October 28, 1899.
As people arrived to work at his new operation—many of them from the glass plants in Pennsylvania and Eastern Europe—Ford built a company town to house them. The result is Rossford, Ohio. The name was derived by combining Ford's second wife's surname (Ross) with his own. By the way, Rossford is not the first city named after a Ford in the plate glass business. Ford's father, John B. Ford, co-founder of PPG, chose a site 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh in 1887 for the PPG Works No. 3 glass factory and named it Ford City, Pennsylvania.
Although the Hollywood Casino dominates the north entrance to Rossford today, there are still visible remnants of Ed Ford's turn-of-the-century company town if you look closely. Study the homes along Superior Street, and you will notice how they share similarities. Although many of these homes have morphed into retail establishments over the years, the style is the same, even with added facades. The resemblance is particularly noticeable in the dormers. These are factory homes—swiftly stamped out as worker residences for the Ford Plate Glass Company in the early twentieth century.
Of course, the other prominent relic of the Ford era is the red brick Ford Club with its massive two-story front porch. It was listed in the National Register for Historic Places in 2016. Over the years, the story passed down is that Ed Ford built the Ford Club as a place for the company's band to practice and play. Despite clear signs the U.S. would soon be entering the war in Europe, Ford went all out with the design and construction of the building. In addition to band facilities, it included a gymnasium, auditorium, meeting rooms, and a three-lane bowling alley so employees could get together with fellow workers and their families. Why would an early twentieth-century industrialist go to such lengths to build a "club" for his employees? I've read where many Ford Plate Glass workers felt that Ed Ford had great pride in what he had built in Rossford and he was exceptionally paternalistic toward his employees and their families. Others will tell you the building was constructed as part of a strategy to avoid unionization by providing recreational space to promote satisfied workers. Whatever the case, Ford also built a church and bank in Rossford and paid for or donated toward many projects in the community, including schools and the public library.
Edward Ford passed away at the age of 77 in his Collingwood Avenue home on June 24, 1920, but his business legacy thrived throughout most of the twentieth century as Libbey-Owens-Ford or L-O-F. To understand how Ford Plate Glass Company came to be known as L-O-F, you must go back to 1916 when Michael Owens and Edward Drummond Libbey partnered to form Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Company in Toledo. In 1926, Libbey-Owens developed laminated safety glass. By 1928, eight years after Ed Ford's death and three years after Libbey's passing, Libbey-Owens won a contract to supply the Ford Motor Company with windshields for their Model A. In 1930, Libbey-Owens merged with the Edward Ford Plate Glass Company to form Libbey-Owens-Ford to focus on the growing demand for automotive glass. The merger paid big dividends when one year later, in the height of the Great Depression, L-O-F purchased the National Plate Glass Company in Ottawa, Illinois, from General Motors and won an exclusive contract to supply G.M. with all its glass needs. In a little over one year, L-O-F became the undisputed king in the automotive glass industry.
In April 1986, L-O-F sold its glass business and name to the Pilkington Group, a multinational glass manufacturer headquartered in the U.K. As part of the Pilkington Group, the company retained the L-O-F name. However, in June 2006, Pilkington was acquired by Nippon Sheet Glass, and the L-O-F name was abandoned to re-brand globally under the Pilkington name.
Today, the Ford Club is the headquarters of Industrial Power Systems (IPS). IPS purchased the long-vacant building in 2016 and conducted an 18-month, $4 million renovation to move its offices across the street from its 100,000 square foot fabrication shop, a former L-O-F property built in 1958. The work done by IPS to move into the building supports their 21st-century mission while honoring tradition and history. The renovation uncovered a few pleasant surprises, including two exquisite fireplaces covered by brick walls and several extraordinary support girders from the Carnegie Steel company—the "Carnegie" name can be seen engraved on the steel. The Ford Club is an anchor building in Rossford with a rich history of public use. The adaptive re-use of this building while preserving its character and architectural detail is a feather in the cap of both IPS and the Rossford community.