A prime example of adaptive reuse architecture, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts derives its name from our campus' historic role in the manufacturing of optical glass lenses and safety goggles here in the United States.
Thomas A. Willson & Co. opens its factory doors on 2nd & Washington Streets in downtown Reading, PA. Founded by Gile J. Willson and Dr. Thomas A. Willson, it's the first company in the United States to manufacture optical lenses.
Thomas A. Willson patents the process for hardening glass, enabling the production of shatterproof protective eyeglasses. Among the company's bestsellers at this time are Arundel tinted lenses.
Working with Thomas A. Willson & Co., the National Safety Council is formed to set standards for uniform safety standards for America's workers.
Thomas A. Willson becomes Willson Products Inc. to emphasize the large range of products the company was now manufacturing, including ear protectors, breathing devices, gas masks, and the Saf-t-bra.
Willson Products helps the war effort by making aviator goggles and high altitude oxygen masks for pilots in the military. By 1943, the factory was manufacturing all of the sunglasses issued to the U.S. Military during World War II, and reached its peak at 1,300 workers.
Willson Products begins to manufacture swimming goggles. During this year, Florence Chadwick wears them to traverse the English Channel.
Due to the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA), Willson stops manufacturing safety eyewear and focuses its attention on developing new varieties of respirators, gloves, and other protective equipment.
Under the name Dalloz Safety Plant since 1997, the factory closes, ending the campus' 130 year history of manufacturing safety products.
The campus is reimagined, renovated, and reopened as GoggleWorks Center for the Arts - now serving over 250,000 visitors annually and one of the largest interactive art center of its kind in the country.