Photo provided by the St. Clair Shores Historical Commission

Looking Back: Historic glass house

St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 22, 2018


ST. CLAIR SHORES — In 1881, Capt. John Ford founded a plate glass company in Pittsburgh. By 1883, his company was known as the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. — the first commercially successful plate glass firm in the U.S. The success of the company would shortly end large-scale plate glass imports from Europe and foster the growth of the domestic glass industry.

Ford’s two sons were involved in the company, and by the early 1900s, Emory L. Ford had moved to Detroit. He and his brother were still involved in the glass business as well as with other business ventures, but glass was Emory’s passion.

When Emory Ford built a home at 485 Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe in 1916, he made certain to have “glass houses” (what we today call greenhouses) erected on the property. One of those greenhouses is shown here, in the mid-1940s.

In 1944, Frank Viviano Sr. paid $2,000 to purchase this glass house. By 1951, it had been reassembled at the Viviano Flower Shop on Harper Avenue, near Masonic Boulevard, in St. Clair Shores. Until 1958, the structure was used as a greenhouse, but in 1958 it became a retail area, the purpose that it still serves today.

The Emory L. Ford estate was demolished in 1964, but a piece of its glass history lives on in St. Clair Shores.

To view this image and other historical photographs, visit the digital media archive at

— Submitted by Heidi Christein, archivist, St. Clair Shores Public Library