History & Hinkley Building Restoration

Water Street Glassworks’ is the product of founders, Jerry and Kathy Catania’s vision to create a glass arts school in the heart of Benton Harbor. The WSG project has taken on the multi-faceted approach of building restoration, arts education, and community and economic development. It has worked collaboratively with other arts institutions including Krasl Art Center, and businesses to significantly contribute to the creation of the city’s arts and historic district. In its 20 years of operation, through events, exhibitions, classes, and public demonstrations, Water Street Glassworks has engaged thousands of residents and visitors in arts education experiences.


The Genesis of Water Street Glassworks began in fall 1996, when Co-Founders Jerry and Kathy Catania were shown a condemned building in downtown Benton Harbor. The tour guide was Bob Weber, one of the Arts District’s early pioneers and the building was the Hinkley Block built in 1898 – a vacant, condemned and partially collapsed – structure on the corner of Water, Territorial and Hinkley streets. In an extreme leap of faith, the Catanias purchased the building in April 1997 and the Hinkley Building Project was launched to transform the structure into a public glass facility.

With the unwavering support of Cornerstone Alliance and its Community Renewal Through the Arts Program, the City of Benton Harbor, Michigan Council for the Arts, HUD, and a host of partners, donors and volunteers, Water Street Glassworks opened for classes on January 6, 2004. In 2007, the Glassworks became a non-profit under the guidance and expertise of Dorris Akers, the school’s Executive Director.