Housed in an historic home is a small gem that is acclaimed by antique glass aficionados throughout Southern California, the Historic Glass Museum.
Jerome Seymour, a woodworker and architect from West Virginia, built this Victorian cottage as his family home around 1903, embellishing the house with wood turnings from the JDB Stillman Winery.
The winery was established in 1885 on property now occupied by the University of Redlands.
These beautiful turnings can be found at the entrance to the American Heritage Room in the Glass Museum.
The Seymour family remained in the house until 1977, when Seymour’s daughter, Emma Cryer, died.
The house was purchased by Dixie and Doc Huckabee in 1983 with the express purpose of creating a museum to house their glass collection.
The Huckabees continued adding to the collection by encouraging other collectors to donate. These collectors formed a nonprofit foundation and raised the money to open the Historic Glass Museum in 1985. In the ensuing years, the glass collection has grown to fill six display rooms.
In 1995, the Seymour House received a Heritage Award from the Redlands Area Historical Society.
The Redlands Conservancy bestowed its Adaptive Reuse Award to the museum in 2017.
The museum contains an eclectic mix of glass. Some pieces are blown glass, but most are molded or machine-made, Depression glass, for example.
The oldest piece is a glass bottle from 1820.
During the early 1800s, most fine glass was clear crystal made with 24 percent to 40 percent lead oxide. Production of this type of glass stopped around 1860 as lead was needed to forge bullets for the Civil War, but re-emerged around 1870.
During the war years, glass blowers started using other minerals, some of which added color to the glass.
The museum has a lovely collection of glass made with manganese, which creates a light purple color.
Milk glass, an opaque-white resulting from the addition of tin or zinc oxide, also is on display, as are other colored glass. Most fine glass makers patented their brand names and color names.
That information, as well as the makers’ signatures, is usually found on the underside of the object. Some pieces were hand-decorated and signed by an artist, as can be seen in museum’s showcase of Louise Piper’s “Violets in the Snow” series (purple violets painted on milk glass).
The museum’s assemblage includes many well-known glass producers — Steuben, Tiffany, Fenton, Fostoria, Milkersburg, Northwood, Dugan — as well as glass categories such as pressed, blown-molded (liquid glass is blown into a mold), Jadite, Carnival glass (which has colored iridescence), Fostoria Coin in which coin figures are molded into or etched on the piece, whale-oil lamps, and cut glass.
A few are quite rare, for example a red and gold Fenton piece titled “Dragon and Lotus.” Also on exhibit are items from Liberace’s extensive glass collection.
Most of the glass is American made, although some is from Europe, notably Czechoslovakia. A most unusual Museum holding is a Victorian Human Hair Wreath that contains no glass, but hangs beside the glass jar that was used to collect strands of hair from family members and then fashioned into a wreath.
Docents at the museum are mostly collectors who have a vast knowledge of antique glass.
Some, such as Stephen Barnett, who is the current president of the foundation, are also glass blowers. None are appraisers.