More than 100 years ago, the Ball family brought its glass factory from New York to Muncie, Indiana, to take advantage of huge deposits of natural gas that could be used in glass production. Ball's glass canning jars revolutionized food preservation, and as Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company thrived, the family gave back to the community. Ball moved to Colorado in 1998, but you can still see the Ball legacy in this college town of 70,000 in east-central Indiana.

By Karyn Spencer
Minnetrista

Here are ways to enjoy the Ball family heritage and the city of Muncie:

Visit a local gem. The Ball family funded the Minnetrista Gathering Place where the F.C. Ball mansion once stood. The steel-and-glass statue Catalyst marks the entrance to the museum, which has rotating exhibits on history, art and the culture of east-central Indiana. Walk through more than a dozen gardens on the 40-acre site, and stop in The Orchard Shop for local produce and gifts.

Minnetrista

Check out the campus. In 1918, the Ball brothers purchased a closed teachers school and donated it to the state of Indiana, which renamed it in the family's honor. Ball State University now has 21,000 students. Its David Owsley Museum of Art, named for a Ball descendant and benefactor, has a collection ranging from ancient Greek vessels to Indiana landscape paintings, with many pieces from Ball family private collections. The campus also includes Christy Woods, an arboretum and botanical garden featuring native plants. Enjoy the feel of the tropics at the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse, which opened in 2014 to showcase the university's collection of 1,800 plants.

Marvel at the mansions. Walk along the White River to see four Ball family mansions with distinct architectural styles, including the ornate limestone Nebosham and the rich wooden Oakhurst. The mansions are not open to the public regularly, but you can explore the gardens, dotted with fountains and mosaic tile paths.

Join the club. Ball jar lovers will find kindred spirits through the Muncie-based Midwest Antique Fruit Jar and Bottle Club, which draws vendors and collectors from across the nation for its annual show and sale in January.

Ring the king. Another local company with a lasting legacy isPizza King, a chain founded more than 50 years ago. Take a seat, then call in your order from your table via a retro red telephone.

Head downtown. Stroll through downtown Muncie and try to imagine life when the Ball company dominated the city. Relax with a cold one at Heorot Pub and Draught House, named for a mead hall in the epic Beowulf, or The Fickle Peach, where an old bank vault now serves as a walk-in cooler behind the bar.

Want to know more? A Legacy Etched in Glass, an online documentary produced by Ball State Student Media, details the history of the Ball family and the Ball company (which no longer makes glass canning jars). Ball's website also includes a company timeline.

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