The Boro through the Eyes of a Student

With Rowan University playing such a large role in  the town of Glassboro, this week I’d like to focus on student perspective via a Q&A with Fadi Elsmaily, a senior Chemistry major here at Rowan. Elsmaily is originally from Bergen County, New Jersey and has called Glassboro home for the past few years as he makes his way toward a degree. He lives off campus and is familiar with the suburban side of Glassboro that many students do not experience in their time here. He is considering doing graduate work at Rowan or another New Jersey institution.

Fadi Elsmaily, Rowan student. Photo by Steve Giangola

How important was location when choosing to attend Rowan University?

Fairly important. I liked that I wasn’t too far from home and being close to Philadelphia. I came down and took a look at the school and Glassboro. I liked that Glassboro wasn’t this bustling kind of town like New Brunswick and that it had some suburban elements in it. It provided a kind of hometown feel to a place with a decent sized college. I like the balance.

How much did you know about Glassboro itself before attending?

Honestly, not that much. I took a tour and they gave some information about it but I hadn’t heard much about it before. I was excited to learn that it does have an interesting past. And of course, I had heard about the rumors of it always smelling like chocolate because of some factory. I learned that’s only sometimes though. (laughs) But yeah, I like to find new stuff out.

Do you think Glassboro makes a good university town and if so, why?

I think it does. I know some of my friends that probably wouldn’t agree. There’s only like one bar and stuff so I guess I can see why they say that but I like Glassboro’s down tempo feel. Its nice to have a place that isn’t this crazy town with a million different things going on. I like the city but I rather live in an area like this. I can interact with a bunch of people but I don’t have to deal with the stress of a bunch of noise and a lot of cars and stuff.

With plans for major development, where do you see the future of Glassboro going?

It’s growing like crazy. Yeah, they’re putting in that hotel and all those other businesses so I think that’s good. It’s giving students a bunch more interesting options to go and eat and shop so I can appreciate there. I see Glassboro expanding even more and kind of losing that suburban element that I do appreciate. Even though that’s so, I don’t mind. It will be exciting for new students and it will draw more people to the school. Plus I’ll be graduated by the time that all happens. (laughs)

What do you like best about the town and what would you recommend to fellow students?

There a bunch of places to eat, that’s nice. The downtown area is pretty small but I like going there anyway. Little Beefs, there on High Street is a great place. Bomb Bomb is also on the same street and is a great place to get some food too. Both also take Boro Bucks so that’s nice. There’s also this little nature path down Delsea a bit that is nice to take a walk down. I actually like the Rowan campus a lot, specifically over back by Bunce, on that side of 322. There aren’t that many classes and stuff over there so I feel like people miss it but it’s actually really nice and people should definitely check it out. There’s some woods I like to take a walk in over by Campus Crossings too. Nice little escape for nature lovers. Glassboro is also cool because you can hop in the car and be in Philly in like 20 minutes and obviously there’s all sorts of stuff there. So yeah, to the people that feel bored, just look around! Or go to your blog. (laughs)

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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.

Welcome to the Spirit of Glassboro!

Hello and welcome to the Spirit of Glassboro! I’m Steve Giangola and a senior at Glassboro’s very own Rowan University. I’ve called Glassboro, New Jersey home for the past few years as I’ve made my way through college and have seen the town change in just this short amount of time. As the university continues to expand, many students may miss some of the historical treasures that this town holds. I wish to change that.

Through this blog I’d like to reveal and fascinate with the stories and legends that may have other wise gone unnoticed to the multitude of young people that make Glassboro their second home for four years. From the city’s past as a thriving community for glass works in the 19th century to the founding of Glassboro State College in the 20th and to the rebranding of that school into Rowan University in the 21st, I’d not only like to examine Glassboro’s historical gems but look towards the future as well. In addition to retrospective posts about historical Glassboro, I will cover events around Glassboro that cater to the growing student population as well as the suburban community that exists here too.

I will begin my quest in examining Glassboro’s past as South Jersey’s “Glass Works in the Woods” as it was appropriately deemed by the town’s founder, Solomon Stranger. My journey will take me through the decline of this once thriving industry into Glassboro’s rebirth as home to a prestigious teaching college, Glassboro State and into the 1960’s, where I will examine the Glassboro Summit Conference, during which US President Lyndon B. Johnson met with Soviet Premier Alexi Kosygin to discuss an agreement on limiting anti-ballistic missile systems. The purported positive atmosphere of the Summit was deemed “the Spirit of Glassboro” and is from which I derive my blog’s title. From that point, I will focus on Henry Rowan’s $100 million dollar donation to Glassboro State and its transformation into Rowan University. Although these are the major points on which I will focus, I’d also like to discover all of the little stories in between that make local history truly compelling. I hope to be surprised and fascinated by the things I find and hope you will be as well. I will also cover local events, whether they be music events or wine tastings, that are shaping Glassboro into the home of an ever expanding university town.

I’m delighted to share the stories I find here in the town and share my love of the place where I’ve transformed from wide eyed freshmen student into a driven, young adult. So come along and join me, as I revel in the delight of digging through some local history!

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