Loop Back: Brin Glass
In its 65 years of glass production at 600 Washington Avenue North, Brin Glass helped supply some of the city’s most iconic buildings with interior windows, including the IDS Tower, Multifoods Tower and the old Sears Roebuck tower (now the Midtown Global Market) in Uptown. Many of the early downtown skyways also used glass from Brin.
Crate loads of large plate glass sheets would arrive at the plant from as far away as Belgium and France, and Brin’s workers would do the fabrication or finishing work. That included cutting, edging and drilling—whatever the client needed.
After starting his company inside an old warehouse on 1st Street the North Loop in 1912, founder Arthur Brin was able to build the big new facility on Washington Avenue in 1918.
While he was a successful businessman and headed several charity groups, his wife, Fanny, was more famous.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt became aware of Fanny’s work on behalf of the poor and appointed her to a national women’s panel on the “Mobilization For Human Needs” at the height of the Great Depression. The two women appeared together at a speech in Minneapolis in 1936. Fanny Brin was also president of the National Council of Jewish Women. She first made the news as an honor student at the U of M in the early 1900s when she became the “first woman orator in the university’s history,” speaking out about the suffrage movement and democracy.
As a peace activist, she was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations Conference in 1945, and was present at the signing of the UN Charter on June 26, 1945.
Arthur Brin was president of the Minneapolis Community Chest and president of the Minneapolis Council of Social Agencies.
After his father’s passing, Howard Brin took over the company and made news in the 1950s for the fancy new mirror-making machines he installed in the North Loop facility. “We’ll be able to turn out more mirrors in one day than all the other mirror makers in Minneapolis can in one week,” he said.
Brin Glass also acquired another North Loop glass company, Northwestern Glass, in 1955. Northwestern operated out of the building that now houses D.NOLO, Pacifier and Cobble.
Brin Glass and Northwestern Glass were sold to Doug Nelson and Larry Waller in 1978, and they moved to a larger facility in 1983.
Black Sheep Pizza, with its coal-fired ovens, opened its first location in the lower level of the Brin building in 2008.
We have several more pages of neighborhood history in our Historic North Loop section.
By Mike Binkley, North Loop Neighborhood Association