A restored 1867 Dorflinger glassworker’s
house will be open for limited review
By TOM KANE
WHITE MILLS — Walter Barbe and
Kurt Reed’s efforts have finally paid off.
For three years, the two volunteers
of the Dorflinger-Suydam Glass Museum have been laboring
to restore a once-dilapidated 1867 house on Charles
Street to its original pristine condition.
The house, which was originally one
of seven houses built by Christian Dorflinger to house
workers in his glass factory, will be open for viewing
by White Mills residents and Dorflinger-Suydam supporters
this Saturday, September 14.
In less than two years, 33 houses were
built in White Mills for 182 employees and their families.
This house, one of the original seven, was fifth in
line. It has been restored to its 1875 condition,
when siding was placed over the board-and-batten walls
and the back porch (summer kitchen) and parts of the
front porch were enclosed.
Dorflinger came to America from France
in 1848 with his widowed mother and two brothers and
two sisters. He began his work with glass in America
in New Jersey, but soon moved to New York City. In
1852 he started his own factory and in 1865 moved
his family to White Mills where he built a glass factory
and a factory town.
“Just at this time, households switched
from oil lamps to kerosene lamps which needed glass
chimneys,” Barbe said. “It was in the making of these
chimneys that Dorflinger made his big money.”
The two-story house, both outside and
inside, is constructed entirely with hemlock wood,
which was plentiful in the era before the tanning
mills ate up all the supply, Barbe said.
“Luckily, the recent owner didn’t alter
the house for occupation of people but used it to
store materials from his business,” Barbe said. “This
kept the house near to pristine condition.”
The house contains many of the authentic
utensils and tools that were used in the heyday of
glass making. By Barbe and Reed’s efforts, many
antiques from the glass-making era are contained in
The project is part of Historic White
Mills and the Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary.
“We want to connect local people with
their heritage,” Barbe said. “The tragedy is that
Wayne County has lost its heritage of glass.”
The original glass factory still stands
on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Route 6 in White
“The area was ideally suited for a
glass factory,” Barbe said. “Coal, an indispensable
element needed to make glass, was plentiful, for the
Delaware & Hudson Canal ran directly in front
of the factory.”
The house remained in the possession
of the Dorflinger family until 1924 when, after the
factory was closed a few years, one of the Dorflinger
daughters began selling the more than 60 workers’
houses that had been rented and were still in the
possession of the family.
In 1892, the Dorflingers began selling
many houses to workers.
“It is likely that this move was prompted
by the union -led labor unrest in 1892 which culminated
in a major factory fire, possibly the result of arson,”
Dorflinger’s finest work was
crystal-like glassware some of which was purchased
by Mary Lincoln for the White House.
“After that purchase, Dorflinger glass
became enormously popular,” Barbe said.
Barbe, who is a retired editor-in-chief
of Highlights for Children, a nationally popular magazine
for children, is the chairman of the Executive Committee
of the Dorflinger-Suydam Museum Board.
The house will be open on Saturday,
September 14 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. for White Mills
residents only, and from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. for those
who are attending the fund-raising dinner at the Dorfinger-Suydam
Museum later that evening.
Barbe said the house will be open to
the public at a later date.
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