The Jamestown Glasshouse is located in Jamestown, Virginia about 1 mile from Jamestown Island, location of the first permanent English settlement, and is a part of the Colonial National Historical Park.
The original glasshouse was built soon after the first glassblowers (German & Polish) arrived in Jamestown in 1608. A series of small furnaces were built just a few yards away from the current exhibit. A small crew of glassblowers and laborers not only chopped down hardwood trees for fueling the furnace, (sometimes requiring up to 2 weeks to achieve the 2300 degrees needed to melt the basic ingredients-sand, soda ash, potash, & lime), they also collected the ingredients, wood ash, sand, crushed oyster shells, and burned seaweed. Since so much time was required for preparation, it is estimated that actual glassblowing probably only occurred for 5 or 6 days a month.
The Glassblowers of 1608 were successful in that they were able to send a sample of their glassware home to England, however, operations did not likely survive the "Starving Time", when the colonist population dropped from around 500 to 60.
A second attempt was made around 1621, where four Italian Glassblowers and two assistants were to revive operations. However, this attempt was not productive, due to bad weather, the Indian massacre of 1622, illness, etc.
It is believed that the furnace was abandoned in 1624.
The current glasshouse was built in the 1970s. The furnace is much larger than the one of 1608, and uses natural gas for fuel; their glass is made from a mix they purchase that is similar to that which was used at the time. Local artists blow glass there daily, as well as explain the art and history of glassblowing at Jamestown. Additional interpreters are available to answer questions.
The glass they make is available for purchase at the gift shop on site.
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