Hard to describe, but for some reason, I usually associate them with old style diners and drug stores. Similar to this, like a honeycomb pattern, but squarish instead of hexagonal, and the glass was usually thick to the point of being barely translucent.
I think of that as glass brick or glass block. I’m not aware of another name.
Glass block would also be my answer.
Glass block seems to be the more common name now, but I’d swear they were glass brick walls in my youth - a few trendy neighbors had them in entryways, around pools and in bathrooms.
The openings in them, though, are not called glass holes.
I have a couple of basement ‘windows’ that are made up of glass blocks. My house was built in 1956. I put windows in quotes because, as stated in the OP, you can’t really see out of them.
The part at the bottom? That’s just glass block, you can go to Home Depot and buy it right off the shelf.
In some applications, not being able to see through them was the point. They were often used in bathrooms to provide light but not allow people to see in from outside. I’ve seen them used as shower walls for the same reason. They’re not obsolete by any means. Here are current do-it-yourself guides to installing basement windows and shower walls. They’re called glass blocks there.
I think that (at least in part) is what’s so nice about them. They let light in, you can kinda see if there’s something moving around on the other side, they look nice, but they still give you a lot of privacy. They’re also modular so there’s of accessories that fit right into them. Dryer vents, tilt down windows etc. And I don’t know if we just found a good company or there’s a lot of profit built into them, but a few years back my dad had all (6?) his window wells replaced with them. He called a glass block place. They quoted him $100 per window (with a smaller tilt down window in each one) and asked if he wanted them to install it for him. As he was about to say that he’d rather just save the money and do it himself (have zero experience as a mason/glazier), they went on to say that it’s $20 per window for the install and removal of the old ones. Yes ma’am. $120 for him to not have to spent two weeks messing around with this, not even a question.
Seems to me I have seen it referred to as VitaGlass.
I always called them glass bricks.
What’s the history on these things? There’s a definite 30s-50s nostalgia vibe I get when I see them. But they’re still around. Were they a new product back then? (Wiki says only “early 1900s”.) Was it a fad? Or is my history of architecture intuition in need of a tune up?
Those look like decorative back splash tiles to me.
HEINEKEN WOBO: A Beer Bottle That Doubles as a Brick
In the 1960’s, the Heineken developed the brick beer bottle for Heineken beer, so that it’s bottles could be used as building materials in less developed countries. Alas it never took off. But cool looking bottles none the less.
The WOBO bottle never took off, but using bottles as building material is pretty tried and true, if not very widespread.
My grandfather’s factory used to have those. They let in light to the shop floor while obscuring the view of the workers inside. I think the building was put up in the 50s or 60s.
All of our basement windows are glass block. They let in light, yet insure privacy. They also keep anyone from entering through the basement. I have an acquaintance who has a very “art deco” house, with a curved glass block wall by his entryway. It’s stunning when lit from behind.
AIUI, the glass block is a tricky thing to build with - getting juuussst the right amount of the one or two mortars which will bind to glass (try to find a binding agent for glass-to-glass use AND has a working life of hours, not minutes) is the problem.
If anyone comes up with a usable mortar which would let any brick layer use glass block, and the idea of using “trash” bottles as building blocks would take off.
I’m not sure when you were using them, but they windows come pre-fab now, in most standard sizes. You can buy them at that hardware store for about a hundred dollars. If you have to make your own (or build a wall) and you can’t figure out the mortar, I’d sugest checking out the directions and/or calling the manufacturer. Not to sound snarky, but you’re not exactly the first person to do this, there’s probably a mortar specifically for this, maybe even from the same brand.
As for “trash” bottles as building blocks, the idea has been done, but I don’t know how well it worked out. IIRC, Heineken was putting beer in square bottles for exactly that purpose. It’s meant to be cheap building supplies in 3rd world counties, but a lot of the pictures I ran across seem to be more along the lines of the hipster movement. OTOH, I’m finding some pictures (with round bottles) dating back almost a hundred years.
I’ve seen a pool built by POW’s during WWII, but that was because of a general shortage of building materials. The bottles are normally set in concrete, so it is easier than some other building methods, but concrete isn’t third-world cheap.