By Roz Rogoff
Touring the Glass HouseUploaded: Aug 12, 2013
In my last blog I said I would tour the Glass House this weekend to see the fireplace bench I donated three years ago, which is located upstairs. I attended the grand opening of the Glass House in 2010 and walked through the downstairs, but I did not see the upstairs until I took the tour.
My neighbor, Sally, said she wanted to come with me to the tour and offered to drive. I walked over to her house and she started driving up to Montevideo. I was surprised she didn't know where Forest Home Farms and the Glass House are. I told her to go west on Pine Valley, turn left on San Ramon Valley Blvd and get over to the right. Drive past the sheep in the field and as soon as you pass the barn turn right into the parking lot.
Dal Barley, one of the volunteers at Forest Home Farm, was giving directions for parking. I asked him where we should park for the Glass House tour. He said we had to pick up tickets at the gift shop first and then we could walk over to the Glass House from there.
Sally parked behind the gift shop and I went in to get the tickets. Tickets for the Glass House tours are $5 each and $5 for the Farm tour or $8 for both. I didn't need a tour of the Farm. I used to give canning demonstrations there a few years ago and knew my way around pretty well.
The lady at the cash register was busy with another guest so I had to wait a little. Sally came in after a few minutes and was looking at a lacy white parasol. She said it is very practical but she didn't buy it. I don't know what it cost, but with the very hot sunny weather we've been having it is probably as practical to carry a parasol in the summer as it is to carry an umbrella is in the winter.
I got the tickets and we had 10 minutes to walk over to the Glass House to make the 11 am tour. There are signs with arrows pointing to the Glass House along the path. When we got there, there was only one other person waiting. The door was locked and there wasn't any place to sit, so I sat on the steps.
I started chatting with the other lady about how much money the City spent restoring the Glass House (around $1.5M) but that they wanted to tear down Mudd's. She was surprised about Mudd's. She told me she took students there to learn about the building and the gardens. I didn't get her name (silly me), but I gave her one of my San Ramon Express cards. So I hope she's reading this and will comment on it.
She asked where the Glass House was originally, and I said it was moved from Dublin. Later the tour guide said it was moved from north of Forest Home Farms.
According to an article in The Sentinel for Summer 2010, "In the fall of 1858 David and Eliza purchased the ranch property three miles south of San Ramon where they moved in the spring of 1859 and built a house. Three more children were born in that house. In 1877 their final home known today as the Glass House was erected." That sounds like it was originally in Dublin.
Sally asked why it is called The Glass House. Well it isn't made of glass, like the Crystal Cathedral in Orange Grove, California. My parents were visiting me in Culver City in 1981 shortly after the Crystal Cathedral opened. The TV News was reporting on it and I wanted to see it.
I drove my parents to see the new building and we went in for a tour of that too. We were very impressed. It is an inspirational building. After Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy in 2010 the building was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and will be retained as a church. It's nice to see these special buildings taken care of.
Anyway back to our Glass House. It's called that after the original owner, David Glass, and his family. The house was built in 1877 and was one of the first homes in the San Ramon Valley. For more information about the tours see the San Ramon Historic Foundation webpage.
Our tour began promptly at 11 am. A crowd had formed by then. We were split up into two groups of about 8 each. Sally's and my group started with the upstairs and the other group started downstairs. This gave me the chance to see my Fireplace bench in action, or inaction since a 150 year old bench doesn't do much except sit there.
The stairs are steep and narrow and took some effort climbing. Remember I'm 70 (almost 71), and even though I like to think of myself as 65, sometimes I feel like 70! There was a gentleman in the group with a tripod chair that folded into a cane. He was the only one in the group who could sit down. Sally said I should get one of those. I'll consider it for a future tour if I take one again.
The first room we went in was furnished as the Master Bedroom. It has a fireplace and my fireplace bench was in there, but not in front of the fireplace. It was at the end of the bed, more like a chest might be. The room was small and it would have taken too much space to put the bench in front of the fireplace.
It's a wide bench, Greco-Roman Revival style from the 1860's. It's designed for two people sitting back to back, one facing the fireplace and the other facing the room. My great aunt Margie did the needlepoint cover. It's a beautiful bench. I thought it deserved a better location but at least it is put to good use.
The next room we went into was set up as the children's room. There are three bedrooms upstairs the master bedroom and two for the children. In a farmhouse of that period the children would sleep together in one room, one for the boys and one for the girls.
The Glasses had nine children. Seven of their children were born in California but most were adults by 1877 when the house was built. In the 19th Century children were considered adults when they reached the age of puberty.
The third bedroom at the top of the stairs is used for special exhibits. This room is larger than the other two bedrooms and has two windows facing different side of the house. Currently the City's incorporation papers and 30th anniversary material are on exhibit there.
I asked our tour guide if this could have originally been the master bedroom. She said she didn't know which of the three upstairs rooms was the master bedroom; so the rooms were set up to reflect the period and not the actual uses by the Glass family.
Ten years ago the City Council and the Glass House Advisory Committee got into a big flap over whether to make the Glass house "representative" or "documentary." Documentary meant it has to be an accurate depiction of the Glass family. Representative meant is could "represent" the period and how people lived in the 1880's.
Since there is only one known photo of the interior of the house when the family lived there, it would be almost impossible to be accurate enough to be "documentary." There are not enough documents to rely on. It was a silly argument that held up restoration of the property for over a year.
The house is not furnished with items the Glass family owned and it not restored to look exactly like it did when they owned it and lived there. However, some items are authentic for later generations of the Glass family. I noticed that the light switch in the parlor looked like my Great Aunt Laura's from the late '20s or early '30s. Glass family descendants lived in the house until 1931 and had it wired for electricity during that period. That's documentary!