One of my favorite places to visit in the Historic Jamestowne part of the settlement is the Glasshouse.
Back in 1607 when Jamestowne was first established, the Glasshouse was one of the first attempts to start an industry in the New World. Everything they needed: fuel, sand, etc. was there in abundance. They just needed people who knew how to actually make the glass.
In 1608 another ship arrived and this one had eight German and Polish craftsman who knew how to make the glass and the Glasshouse was in business. But the Glasshouse was not successful, though it struggled alone for a few years.
Again in 1622, a Glasshouse was established, this time with Italian artisans. But again it failed.
Then in 1948, the furnaces were rediscovered. A new facility was constructed from the excavated ruins. Now, once again, glass is blown in Jamestowne by modern artists who make glass as they did almost 400 years ago.
Watching glassblowing has always, always fascinated me … as it did this time.
Jamestown has two separate areas for visitors to enjoy.
One area is where the settlement was actually located with ruins of various buildings in a parklike area.
The second area is a settlement reproduction with replicated buildings, villagers in period customs, authentic activities such as cooking over an open fire, working on a ship and building a canoe … all making the English colony come to life.
If you’re traveling with kids, I definitely recommend the village. You can wander through the buildings, talking to the “village people,” go on the boats and if you’re lucky (like I was), be taught how to make a knot that the sailors used.
The settlement site has a lot of room to run, and is in a beautiful location right on the shore of the James River. Older kids might enjoy the history aspect of it – but I think younger kids would enjoy the village more.
And this is the truth. If I would get these posts up sooner than four months after I’ve been somewhere – I would do a much better job remembering details.
I have been to Williamsburg several times, but have never had the opportunity to eat in one of the taverns/restaurants on Duke of Gloucester Street. This time we decided to do it.
Shields Tavern was opened in 1705 and given the name Marot’s Ordinary. John Marot was the owner. Not only was there a place to eat, but also dry goods and a garden room. Often travelers stopped there to socialize.
Seventeen hundred and five is a long time ago. The building has gone through several renovations, but it is still on the same site and still serving food … an historical aesthetic.
We parked and walked down the street (you can’t drive on it), just as dusk was settling over the town. We were led downstairs to the basement which was lit by candlelight including a lantern at our table. Our server was in custom and very pleasant. I ordered the ale-potted beef (a delicious beef stew) because it sounded very colonial to me.
Expensive, so not a place I would go to every week, but for a once-in-a-lifetime treat, not bad. I mean, I’ve been to Williamsburg at least six times and this was the only time I got to eat on Gloucester Street. Hey! That has a nice ring to it, I could write some poetry.)
The next morning we headed out in the cloudiness to Assateague Island and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – to see some horses. But first we topped at the Assateague Light – a 142 foot tall lighthouse on Assateague. The lighthouse was built in 1867 and is still in use. Hidden in some trees, we walked down a wooded path and then – there it was. The lighthouse was featured on the 2003-2004 Federal Duck Stamp – as pictured here. Although the day was dreary, we were able to go to the top and get some pictures of the island.
We headed to Appomattox Manor, a former plantation. During the battle of Petersburg, the the manor became the Union Headquarters. The house sits on a point where the James River and the Appomattox River come together.
The home was owned by Dr. Richard Eppes. When the war started, he joined the Confederates to become a surgeon at the Petersburg Hospital. His family stayed until the Union army took over (1861) and then they fled to a safer place. When the war came to Petersburg, they left again – this time to Philadelphia.
When Dr. Eppes came back after the war, he found his house ruined and the plantation destroyed. His family was not able to come back until 1866.
We wandered around, but there was a limit what we could do because the house was under construction and a lot of workers were on scaffolds and ladders. But still interesting and a fun walk.
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.