Over the past few weeks, longtime residents of Winchester may have noticed a familiar sound returning three times a day. Younger residents or those who have recently moved into the community may not be aware of the meaning of this sound. What they hear is the sound of Winchester’s award-winning Ardagh Band factory whistle.
The whistle sounds every day at 7:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and signals the shift change. The whistle stopped working in 2015 during a furnace rebuild at the factory. One of the contractors removed some key components and they were never reinstalled. After spending over $2500.00, the factory whistle became operational again on Valentine’s Day.
“The first request I’ve had from the public, since arriving at the factory in September 2016, was to rewire the Whistle,” said Aaron Wine, factory manager. Many members of the community have fond memories associated with the whistle. “When I was a kid and that whistle sounded, I knew mom and dad would be home soon and I should be too,” said Dan Speed, a maintenance journeyman at the plant who also helped with the whistle.
Plant operations manager Seth Armstrong was instrumental in pushing the maintenance crew to fix the whistle. “Growing up in Winchester, I knew how much that sound meant to the community,” he said. Tommy Morris, a maintenance electrician who has worked at the plant since January 4, 1977, was the employee who did most of the work to get the whistle working again. “I’ve been here a long time and have a lot of memories of the whistle,” Morris said.
Others who have worked on the project include plant engineer and maintenance manager Waddill Woolums; Jon Tressler and Brock McCoy, fellow hot-end machine repairers; Maintenance Mate Reney Shaneyfelt; and maintenance apprentice Rodney Foreman.
Employing 450 people, Ardagh is one of Winchester’s largest employers. It produces an average of 1,500,000 glass containers for the food industry per day. About 43% of them are canning jars and food containers and 57% are liquor containers.
This factory has been producing glass in Winchester for over 100 years. The land where the factory is located originally belonged to the Litschert family. The Litschert family leased the land from the Woodbridge Leggett Company in 1898. They built a factory to make window glass. The venture failed and the rights were sold to the American Window Glass Company in 1899. The Monarch Gas Company purchased the site in 1903 to secure two gas wells on the property. The following year, the Woodbury Glass Company moved to the Parker City plant. They expanded the Davis Glass Factory inventory. The company reorganized and saw its share capital rise to $275,000.
In 1917 the factory burned down. It was rebuilt with a third gas well. Thatcher Manufacturing Company purchased the plant in 1920. In 1922 the plant was purchased by Turner Glass of Terre Haute.
In 1931 the factory was purchased by the General Glass Holding Company with an equal stake by Hocking Glass. In 1937, these companies merged with Anchor Cap Corporation to become Anchor Hocking Corporation. Anchor Hocking operated the plant for decades.
In 2012, the Ardagh Group bought the company for $880 million. The Ardagh Group began as the Irish Glass Bottle Company in Dublin, Ireland in 1932. During the 1990s the company purchased several more and is now based in Luxembourg.
The Ardagh Group is today one of the largest metal and glass packaging companies in the world. They operate 14 factories in North America. Their two plants in the area are two of the oldest continuously operated glass container plants in the United States. Their factory in Dunkirk, Indiana opened in 1889, and the factory in Winchester opened in 1898.
The Winchester plant has been the No. 1 glass plant in North America for three consecutive years: 2019, 2020 and 2021. “At Ardagh, we love and value our community and the many supporters we have across the community. We wanted to show our admiration by restoring this iconic lighthouse to the community,” Wine said.