Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lexicon: Lexan Polycarbonate

In the early 1970s, Edward B. Silverstein and Associates was contacted by the Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Causeway Funeral Home to renovate its building and parking accommodations. The funeral home supplied the firm with promotional materials from different makers of stained glass windows in hopes of commissioning a "Tree of Life" for its chapel. One potential supplier was Glass Crafts of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who specialized in "vandal-proof" stained glass windows reinforced with Lexan polycarbonate.

The resin was first accidentally discovered by chemist Dr. Daniel Fox, who was working on developing a new wire insulation substance. By the early 1960s, NASA had adapted it for use; later, the 1969 Apollo 11 astronauts wore Lexan polycarbonate pressure helmets and visors. Lexan's use as a window material began in 1968. Today it is associated with a wide variety of products, from Nalgene bottles to riot shields to cellular phones. Click here for a Lexan Timeline.

The Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp owners ultimately decided to commission two Blanko antique glass windows in a "contemporary style broken up in linear patterns" from the New Orleans manufacturer and designer of art glass, Henry J. Lips, Inc. (Correspondence, 6 July 1971. Edward B. Silverstein Collection).

[Image: Advertising from Glass Crafts, 604 So. Third Street, La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1971. Job #845, Edward B. Silverstein Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].

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