I have noticed this about me. I have an incredible attention span when it comes to certain activities (and this was true when I was a kid, too). I like to watch horse shows. I like to sit on the pier and watch fishing boats come in.
And I like to watch glassmaking.
Jamestown is a good place to do that (the glassmaking part).
Glassmaking was a prosperous business in England, so the officials of the London Company figured glassmaking would also be a prosperous occupation in the new world. The company made sure glassmaking experts were among the settlers – in fact 8 of the 70 were glassmakers.
In 1608, just one year after the colonists arrived, a glass factory was in operation – the very first factory in the country. The factory was in the woods, about a mile from town and at first seemed to be the answer to the colonists prospering. Although there is indication that the factory was in operation for at least six months, the details then disappear. But twelve years later, another glass factory was started – this time with expert Italian glass workers. Captain William Norton was behind this one and he wrote to the London Company with permission to “sett upp a Glasse furnace and make all manner of Beads & Glasse.”
But the Italians and the Englishmen didn’t get along too well. Then the glasshouse blew down, then there was war, then the Italians got sick. So that didn’t work too well, either.
However, the glass house does produce glass today. Archaeological excavations found the foundation of the furnace and fragments of green glass. The glasshouse today is near the original site on Glasshouse Point and is in operation for visitors to watch glass being made and formed.
I remember watching the glassmaking last time we were there – and have a green piece of glasswork (stamped with the Jamestowne logo) sitting on my shelve from that visit. It was no less fascinating this time.
KID FACTOR: I think a lot of kids – both little kids and teens would find this fascinating, but I know a lot of kids unfortunately get “bored” with anything. I would have kids watch at least one piece of glass being made (from beginning to end). Not only is it interesting, it’s educational. Then maybe buy then an inexpensive souvenir from the glass shop.