Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fiberglass History

(originally published 4/4/16 in Model D)

Since its opening in 1964, Guy Kenny's Plymouth-based industrial company Glassline has specialized almost exclusively in the fabrication of corrosion-resistant fiberglass equipment for the steel, chemical, and automotive industries. Hence the massive, multi-chambered tank that's currently under construction in the middle of his workshop.

"The principle," Kenny tells me matter-of-factly, "is that is they can put a car in there, give it seven years of exposure in four or five weeks, and see how it holds up. They'll raise the temperature inside from 40 degrees below zero to 140 at one degree a minute. They'll spray it with water and salt. They can even make it snow in there."

Fascinating as the tank is, it is not actually the reason for my visit to Glassline. I'm there to learn about the curious variety of disembodied architectural elements that are strewn about Kenny's workshop, and that give it the appearance of a disassembled classical theatre set. There are elaborately carved lions' heads, bits of balustrade, and several sections of cornice -- the ornate ledges that crown historic buildings and are intended to deflect rainwater from their facades.

That's because, in the last ten years, Kenny has brought his technical know-how to a whole new market: the revitalization of downtown Detroit. In addition to their industrial work, Glassline has taken to recreating lost or deteriorated architectural elements for a host of historic buildings that are undergoing rehabilitation. And they're making them all out of fiberglass....

Read the rest at Model D.

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