A Brief History of Glassboro, NJ

In 1779, Glassboro was founded by Solomon Stanger to establish a factory for the manufacturing of glass. In its early years the town was known as “Glass Works in the Woods,” and catered to the burgeoning industry. Throughout the years, ownership of the major glass factory changed hands a number of times to different glass manufactures, including the Heston-Carpenter Glass Works, Olive Glass Works,  Harmony Glass Works and the Whitney Brothers Glass Works.

In the mid 19th century, under the ownership of the Whitney brothers, Glassboro became home to one of South Jersey’s largest and most successful glass factories. Following the success of the factory, Glassboro became one of Gloucester County’s largest communities and home to a blacksmith, wheelright, carpenter, shoemaker and mason. Another notable accomplishment of the Whitney Brothers was the construction of Hollybush, an Italian-style villa, which still proudly stands on Rowan University’s campus to this day and would later be the site of the Glassboro Summit Conference.

As the glass industry declined, the factory was moved out of the center of the town and instead focused on the production of various metal and glass products instead of the flasks and bottles it had gained recognition for. In 1923, the Glassboro Normal School was opened on 25-acre piece of land granted by the town. In the 1930’s the school was renamed the New Jersey State Teachers College at Glassboro and in 1958 as Glassboro State College.

In 1967, Glassboro was chosen for a meeting between US President Lyndon B. Johnson and Soviet premier to discuss limiting anti-ballistic missele systems. The meeting of two of the 20th century’s greatest powers became known as the Glassboro Summit Conference. The leaders met in Hollybush and although an agreement was not reached, the good nature of the Summit gave rise to the phrase, “The Spirit of Glassboro,” which of course is from which this blog draws its name. In line with the positive atmosphere, the event was seen as softening the relations between the two nations.

President Johnson and Soviet Premier Kosygin Photo by National Park Service

In 1992, Glassboro State alumni and successful engineer, Henry Rowan gave a $100 million dollar endowment to the college and in 1996 the school was renamed Rowan University. Revitalized by the endowment the school added a top-tier engineering program, complete with a new state-of-the-art building. Into the 21st century, Rowan has continued to grow. Most recently a mixed purpose building, housing students, classrooms and businesses was built and named the Whitney Center, after Glassboro’s famous Whitney brothers. Construction is ongoing to transform Glassboro into a true university town.

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