My granddaughter Emily and I visited Goggle Works in Reading, PA and the above slide is from that day. Since that day my daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren and I have visited Goggle Works together and had a really enjoyable time. There is no admission fee, and definitely a great find for any lover of the arts!
The following information is from their website:
The GoggleWorks is located at:
201 Washington Street
Reading, PA 19601
Hours of Operation:
M-S: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
11:00 am - 7:00 pm
There is no admission fee for the GoggleWorks. Park in our FREE parking lot located at 2nd and Walnut Streets.
The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts is a prime example of adaptive reuse in architecture, and derives its name from the original structure from which it evolved. Where there is now a hub of community activity bringing people together in the arts and culture, there once stood a leader in the safety industry whose groundbreaking innovations spanned over a century.
In 1871, during a time when the United States depended solely on Europe for optical lenses, Thomas A. Willson & Co. erected the first factory for the manufacturing of optical glass for lenses and reading glasses at the corner of Washington and 2nd Streets in Reading, Pennsylvania. Founded by Gile J. Willson and his son Dr. Thomas A. Willson, the company made innovative strides in addressing the occupational hazards faced by so many working in factories throughout the industrial revolution and is credited with launching the safety protection industry. Their first innovation, among many that would follow, was a protective lens that blocked dangerous and blinding rays produced by metal processing equipment.
During the 1890s the company expanded the reach of the safety industry to address not only vision, but also hearing, respiratory and head protection. Dr. Frederick Willson, the son of Dr. Thomas A. Willson, had joined the family company and became the president under a new name, T.A. Willson Co. Inc. as the company incorporated in 1910.
The National Safety Council was created in 1913, and T.A. Willson & Co. Inc. helped to set the bar for the establishment of uniform safety standards in industry. Through the 1920s, they continued expanding their line of safety equipment for the protection of coal miners, military personnel, and the evolving field of aviation. In 1929 the company changed its name to Willson Goggles, Inc., with Thomas A. Willson Jr. as the company’s president, and by World War II, Willson Goggles was helping the war effort by making aviator goggles and high altitude oxygen masks for pilots in the military.
In 1936 the company again changed its name to reflect the ever-expanding range of safety protection equipment they had come to represent. The new name, which would take the company through the next forty-five years, was Willson Products, Inc. They went on to produce fashionable sunglasses, as modeled by the contestants of the 1938 Miss America Pageant, and swim goggles, as worn by Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim both directions of the English Channel in 1950.
Eventually the company changed hands first to Ray-O-Vac Corp. in 1956, and the following year to Electric Storage Battery (ESB) Co., but maintained the Willson Products name through the atomic age and space age, still leading the safety industry in research and development of equipment to meet the needs of a technologically advancing society. By 1981 the company was manufacturing more than 3,000 separate items in protective gear, and at that time became Willson Safety Products.
Willson shifted its focus to the development of new varieties of respirators, gloves and other protective equipment in the 1980s. They stopped manufacturing safety eyewear and began to purchase those products offshore. The company teamed up with Christian Dalloz, a French-based company to create protective eyewear, and Willson became Dalloz’s largest customer. Dalloz bought Willson Products in 1989, and changed the company name to Dalloz Safety in 1997.
Between 200 and 300 people were employed at the Dalloz plant in Reading, but due to outdated equipment and manufacturing processes, layoffs began. By 2001 fifty employees remained, and in May, 2002 the Dalloz Safety plant in Reading closed.
A 130-year history of safety industry innovation and leadership came to an end, and the future of the buildings that had been erected to accommodate the Willson family’s enterprising manufacturing was uncertain. In the midst of hopes and plans for the revitalization of the greater Reading area, the City of Reading recognized the value and the character of these buildings, and their potential to serve the community in a whole new way. Plans to develop a community arts and cultural resource center began, fueled by the proven success of similar adaptive reuse arts center projects. By converting abandoned factories, these community arts centers have revitalized their areas, maintaining local historical and architectural integrity while inspiring a cultural and economic resurgence as the community and visitors come together to create, appreciate, and celebrate the arts.