The History of Franklin Art Glass Studios
Franklin Art Glass Studios, Inc. was founded in 1924 with three principals, Wilhelm Kielblock, Wilhelm Kielmeier, and Henry ‘Elmore’ Helf. Originally located at 135 East Spring Street the company’s creation was during the depression. As the depression deepened and commissions for stained glass declined, Wilhelm Kielmeier pulled out of the company. This left Wilhelm Kielblock, a noted German stained glass designer and painter, and Elmore Helf, a business man, to reorganize the company. Elmore Helf was not the first member of the Helf family to run a stained glass studio, his father, Henry Helf, was shop foreman for Von Gerichten Art Glass Company in Columbus, Ohio. Henry worked there as a shop foreman until the company closed in 1931, all the while passing his love and the stained glass trade onto Elmore.
Ohio Trade Studios
To keep Franklin Art Glass alive during those difficult times the decision was made that Kielblock would relinquish his ownership of Franklin Art Glass, which was actually his portion of the debt, to Helf. Kielblock would then operate as an independent contractor under the name, Ohio Trade Studios, all the while operating in the same building and same phone number as Franklin Art Glass. Through this arrangement Helf would sell the ‘Munich Style’ commissions designed and painted by Kielblock’s Ohio Trade Studio along with other original designs created by Franklin Art Glass. This arrangement continued successfully until Wilhelm Kielblock’s death in 1987. After successfully riding out the depression Franklin Art Glass became a financially stable stained glass studio working on residential, commercial, and liturgical commissions.
Approached by Wendy’s
In 1945 Elmore’s son, James Helf assumed control of the company after returning home from serving in WWII. It was business as usual until Franklin Art Glass was approached by Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers who were building their first restaurant just a few blocks from Franklin’s old Oak Street location. Wendy’s interior decorator wanted to use stained glass lamps in the restaurants, and with the help of Franklin Art Glass, designed a series of hanging lamps which would eventually become synonymous with Wendy’s restaurants. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Franklin produced over 45,000 lampshades, hiring 40 employees to keep up with the demand.
The Stained Glass Association of America
The Stained Glass Association of America is a professional trade association whose membership consists of the finest architectural stained and decorative art glass artists and studios in the United States and around the world. Franklin Art Glass has been a proud member of the SGAA since 1909. When Elmore Helf passed away on September 16, 1968 in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 76, his obituary published in ‘Stained Glass Quarterly’ remembered him as “one of the oldest active members of the Stained Glass Association of America, his firm the Franklin Art Glass Studios having been members for over forty years.”
Columbus' Historic German Village
During this time of company growth it was necessary to have more room to accommodate the new business so Franklin Art Glass Studios was moved from its second location on 214 Oak Street to its new and current location at 222 East Sycamore Street. The new facility located in Columbus’s historic German Village is a 23,000-square-foot plant with a 12,000-square-foot warehouse.
Stained Glass Classes
In 1971 after graduating with a degree in Business Administration from Eastern Kentucky University, Gary Helf began working at Franklin Art Glass. Up until this point the business had been only stained glass commissions, but with the increasing popularity of hobbies in the late 1960s, Franklin Art Glass decided to capitalize on the trend and began to offer stained glass classes. This eventually led to the retail and wholesale business through which customers can buy supplies. Franklin Art Glass still offers their Fundamentals of Stained Glass classes today.
In 2003, the fourth generation of the Helf family joined Franklin Art Glass’s legacy. Andrea (Helf) Reid started work shortly after graduating from Wittenberg University with a BA. She has been a driving force in moving the company forward into the digital age through various social media sites and helping to create a strong on-line presence. Rooted in four generations of family ownership and leadership, Franklin Art Glass Studios will be here to serve all of your art glass needs for decades to come.
Franklin Art Glass Studios, Inc.
Franklin Art Glass owes its successful reputation to the completion of thousands of only the finest projects of enduring beauty and highest quality. As one of the largest studios of its kind in the country, we succeed in maintaining artistic integrity & one-on-one relationships with our clients. Whether working with a single residence, commercial company or national contractor, Franklin Art Glass’ quality & focus on client satisfaction remains the same.