Editor's note: This is the 69th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington landmarks.
HUNTINGTON - Mention the words glass plant to most folks in Huntington and the name that quickly comes to mind is Owens-Illinois, the big glass container maker that closed its Huntington plant in 1993. But in the heyday of the West Virginia glass industry, Huntington was home to at least three dozen glass plants, both large and small, producing a wide variety of items.
One of the biggest and best-known known was the Alexander H. Kerr Glass Co. plant that was built in 1932 on the Chesapeake & Ohio main line in Altizer Addition. The California company said it decided to open a plant in Huntington due to the ready availability of natural gas, a favorable labor market and good access to rail service. The plant was one of seven Kerr Glass plants nationwide.
Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the plant ultimately produced up to 2 million glass containers each year. Originally, Kerr made only home canning jars and jelly glasses. In the 1940s, it added commercial glass jars and then commercial bottles to its line.
Something the plant did't make was liquor bottles. The members of the Kerr family of California who owned the company were deeply religious and refused any offers to manufacture liquor bottles. In the company's earliest years, every case of canning jars that left its plants included a leaflet on the importance of church tithing. In 1935, the Interstate Commerce Commission ruled the practice illegal and so the company had to discontinue inserting the leaflets.
The Kerr Glass plant burned 100,000 cubic feet of natural gas a day and in full production used up to 10 carloads of glass sand, two carloads of lime, two carloads of feldspar and huge quantities of chemicals and other ingredients monthly. It employed between 280 and 325 workers, depending on what containers were in production.
Citing excess capacity and soft markets, Kerr Glass closed its Huntington plant on Dec. 23, 1982 - just two days before Christmas.