Hardy Glass Block Company

Then and now

Standing at 711 W. 103rd Street, deep on the south side, the Hardy Glass Block Company‘s building is a weathered time capsule. With a couple of eager companions in tow, I paid a visit last weekend.

Hardy Glass Block

The exterior sign isn’t quite as fabulous as it once was; it’s lost a revolving clock, as well as flecks of colored filler block which have been replaced by clear blocks over the years. It is likely they were removed over time to act as replacements for customers.

Inside, however, a number of delights await the fan of Midcentury architecture.

Hardy Glass Block

Hardy Glass Block

Hardy Glass Block

The company’s offices, though small and utilitarian, are of the same vintage as the exterior wall: unblemished 1960s. The president’s office in particular is unfathomably perfect.

Hardy Glass Block

The wood desk is perfectly geometric, clean and precise. Three matching chairs sit across from it. The company’s product forms a backdrop, between vintage false wood paneling. Even the carpet fits. Marvelous!

Not everything is untouched. In a conference room, a solid wall of wedge modules in “fire engine red” has been painted over with white; when new, it harmonized with bright red furniture and carpet to form a shocking Sixties composition.

The biggest treat, of course, is viewing that spectacular wall of glass block from the inside, amid aisles of loose glass block stacked on shelves.

Hardy Glass Block

Hardy Glass Block

Hardy Glass Block

As can be seen, the wall has taken some abuse over the years. A few of the leaf-design modules have been replaced by other designs or by standard blocks, either as replacements for customers or following damage. The wall as a whole has suffered from its proximity to the street, as buses and street work cause damaging vibrations over the years. Several of the modules are noticeably cracked. Its days are probably numbered, the company representative who ushered us in said that it will eventually be replaced with more current product lines. Understandable, but still saddening.

And of course, the culmination of our visit was actually purchasing a few of the blocks ourselves. I got the last two unused modules, a pyramid and a wedge in orange, as well as a pair of the blue leaf blocks shown here, salvaged from a church some years ago. My compatriots walked out with several modules and a pile of “filler” blocks in a rainbow of colors.

Hardy Glass Block

The prizes

They still have quite a few left, and they’re cheap as cheap can get; the salvaged blocks cost us $2 each.

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6 thoughts on “Hardy Glass Block Company

  1. I’m loving what I’ve seen of your photos; particularly of the courtyard buildings. Have you seen the mid-century examples on Oak Park Ave in Oak Park yet ?

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