Beginnings of Bellaire Ohio.
The young George Washington had explored and surveyed lands in the Ohio River Valley before the Revolutionary War. After the war, he supported plans to have the federal government make land grants to veterans as payment for their services, in lieu of cash.
The ownership of the land changed hands sporadically, through speculation and conflicts over land deeds. John Rodefer and Jacob Davis purchased a shared majority of land for a village, which they realized in 1834. They surveyed six acres of building lot sites north of what is today Twenty-Seventh Street West toward Belmont Street. They named it Bell Air after Davis’s former home in Maryland. Soon after, other settlers began to buy lots, and the town began to grow.
The first big boost for growth came with the construction of the Central Ohio Railway in 1853, later absorbed by the Baltimore and Ohio, and the Stone Viaduct Bridge (opened in 1871) that carried it to Wheeling, Virginia. The B&O reached Wheeling in January 1853, having started construction at Baltimore, Maryland in 1827. It was the means by which the East Coast city, a port on Chesapeake Bay, could connect with western markets and compete with New York City and the Erie Canal. Col. John Sullivan campaigned for the connection from Bellaire. The town was renamed Bellaire by the railroad company.
Bellaire had some strategic importance during the Civil War. Its location on the Ohio River meant that it was on the border between the state of Ohio (pro-Union) and the state of Virginia (voted to secede from the Union). Railroads on both sides of the river added to the strategic significance. For these reasons, Camp Jefferson was established in Bellaire as a military training camp, and was often departure point for union soldiers using the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to move to the southeast.[6
Glass City era
Bellaire gained the title of “Glass City” for the period of 1870 to 1885. The area had modern transportation, an energy source, and a skilled workforce. The transportation infrastructure included the Ohio River, the National Road, and railroads, including the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Central Ohio Railroad. Coal was the local energy source, as Belmont County was part of the eastern Ohio coal region. A skilled workforce was located within the region, since glass had been made across the river in Wheeling since the 1820s.
Some of the glass-making facilities of the time were Belmont Glass Works, Bellaire Window Glass Company, Rodefer-Gleason Glass Company, Star Glass Works, National Glass Manufacturing Company, Bellaire Goblet Works, Union Window Glass Company, and Enterprise Window Glass Company. In the next decade, the list also included the Bellaire Bottle Company, the Century Glass Company, and the Imperial Glass Company.
The discovery of natural gas in the Findlay, Ohio area in the late 1880s drew many manufacturers from Bellaire to the west, where the region around Toledo and Fostoria became the new center for Ohio’s glass industry.
Imperial Glass Museum
Among dozens of local manufacturers, the Imperial Glass Company, founded in 1901 by Edward Muhleman, a riverman and financier, first made glass in 1904. It specialized in the mass production of attractive and affordable pressed-glass tableware, using continuous-feed melting tanks. One of the largest American handmade glass manufacturers during the 20th century, Imperial also produced blown glass, several lines of art glass, and its trademark “Candlewick” pattern. Bellaire’s glassmaking era finally ended when the “Big I” closed its door in 1984. The building was razed in 1995. Its diverse products remain highly prized by glass collectors.
The Imperial Glass Museum contains displays of Imperial Glassware, as well as other Bellaire glassware, from the Ohio Valley Glass and Artifacts Museum. The museum is dedicated to the glassware and people who worked at Imperial. The National Imperial Glass (NIG) Collectors Society intends to keep alive the story of Imperial through the museum. Imperial was one of the largest and most diverse of the companies that made up the American handmade glass industry.
As of the census of 2010, there were 4,278 people, 1,836 households, and 1,056 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,592.7 inhabitants per square mile (1,001.0/km2). There were 2,187 housing units at an average density of 1,325.5 per square mile (511.8/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 91.9% White, 5.5% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.2% Asian, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.8% of the population.
There were 1,836 households of which 28.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.3% were married couples living together, 17.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.5% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 3.01.
The median age in the village was 38.9 years. 23.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.7% were from 25 to 44; 26% were from 45 to 64; and 15.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 47.9% male and 52.1% female.