By Peter Becker Managing Editor The annual antique show hosted by Downtown Hawley Partnership was held this year in a historic setting, the former Dorflinger Glass Company cutting shop. The venue on October 6 provided a rare public opportunity to recapture something of a time and place of generations past. In this hallowed bluestone building along Route 6, exquisite glass was crafted by artisans, celebrated by presidents and royalty, and held in awe to this day by anyone enraptured by the sharp reflections and refraction of light. Next year, the factory and glass company offices are expected to become a museum open to the public on a regular basis. James K. and Bette Asselstine are overseeing the private project. For decades, the factory stood largely closed to the outside world. After the Dorflinger empire closed the business in 1921, the site was transformed into a place to make baseball bats and tool handles. Later it was a Coca-Cola bottling plant, and later still, a factory making commercial bakery appliances. For several years it sat empty. Concern whirled about what would become of the landmark. The cutting shop was just the lone survivor of an assembly of factory buildings, most made of brick, that tightly occupied the parcel from Route 6 up hill in back to a side street known as Ash Street, where Lollipop Pond - an old community swimming hole- holds water for fire protection. This busy industrial complex, with its towering smokestacks- one still stands, connected to the cutting shop- originated in 1865. Christian Dorflinger, a native of Alsace-Lorraine near the French/German border, came to America and started a cut glass factory in Brooklyn. Relocating to the small village of White Mills, he made use of the nearby canal for transport, and enlarged the village for his growing base of workers. Much of the factory complex burned down in 1892, but was immediately rebuilt. The cutting shop and offices, both made of bluestone, survived. They turned out some of the finest cut glass in the world, held in reverence by museums and private collectors. Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary in White Mills opened in 1980, on the former estate grounds of Christian Dorflinger, last occupied by Dorothy Grant Suydam, wife of Christian’s grandson Frederick Suydam. The Sanctuary operates the Dorflinger Glass Museum, and also made a museum out of one of the unique Dorflinger worker’s cottages on Charles Street. They also own the White Mills Fire House Museum and the D&H Canal Lock House Museum in White Mills. A community walking trail installed by the Sanctuary leads from the Fire House Museum to the back of the cutting shop and a parking area, with interpretive panels along the way. Two more essential elements to the master plan to preserve, record and interpret the Dorflinger story included the cutting shop and the Dorflinger Glass Company office building, right outside the cutting shop. The Asselstines, of Tyler Hill ,stepped in and have invested their money, their time and passion to see the cutting shop and offices saved and restored. James Asselstine serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary. He explained, however, that the project to restore the old factory and offices is something he and his wife are doing privately. Their plan is to open both facilities to the public to educate them about the factory operations. He said this component of the Dorflinger story will complement what the Sanctuary is doing, and expand on the experience for the visitor. Another important link in the local corridor for heritage tourism is the D&H Canal Park, with the Lock 31 House, being developed by the Wayne County Historical Society about three miles from White Mills. By working together, he said, all of these entities can better share their related story, and in turn survive and prosper. The antique show was held in the second floor of the cutting shop, which has been remodeled for other future uses. There has been discussion of making it available for a restaurant or other business, to help make the project self-sustaining. The top, third floor will be renovated as a museum to show how the cut glass was fashioned. A meeting room in the back, which has been opened on occasion for special events, provides a window view of the long open area where Dorflinger’s artisans did their skilled work. Just steps away is the two-story office building. Made of bluestone and capped with a slate roof, the interior contains fine cherry and chestnut moldings and paneling, original to the structure. The paymaster’s window is in place where glass company workers would line up for their hard earned pay. Christian Dorflinger’s office is still there. Upstairs was Dorflinger’s White Mills showroom, where customers could look over the tableware, drinking glasses, vases and other implements, for purchase. Today, Asselstine has on display his private collection of Dorflinger glass. Pictures on the walls depict the glass factory. Alan Rutledge was his contractor. Renovations started in 2010. Asselstine said he plans to open the cutting factory and offices to the public in May of 2013. This is coincident, he said, with his retirement. Asselstine is the Managing Director of Barclays Capital, an investment firm in New York. Kurt Reed, a local historian and expert on Dorflinger glass, has agreed to be the curator. The factory and offices will be open at no cost to the public, he said. He hopes to have it open five or six says a week. He plans to open a library on the first floor of the offices, for anyone wanting to research the subject of cut glass. The glass collection may eventually have to move to the cutting shop, where it is handicapped accessible. Complete use of the property, he noted, will be augmented by the provision of central sewer, which is slated for the community. Why is he doing this? “These are important buildings to save,” Asselstine said, “to tell the story of the Dorflinger Glass Company and the community. The story deserves to be told.”
More history concerning the Dorflinger Glass Company may be found at the Sanctuary’s web site,