The other day I saw that Dorothy-Lee Jones had passed away. I was sad to see another early American glass elder and scholar gone.
From the Founders Chapter Glass Club on Facebook:
Sad news that Dorothy-Lee Jones, passed away on August 4th. after a long decline with Alzheimer’s. She was huge in the glass world and president of NAGC (1965-1967). Her daughter Lyra is planning a memorial service for her on Thursday, Sept 22 at 1pm, at Doherty’s Funeral Home, 477 Washington St., Wellesley, Mass. “I know Mom has outlived many of her friends in the glass world, but I was wondering if you could spread the word, in case anyone would like to attend or send a remembrance to include in the service.”
I’ve written before about my love for 19th century American glass…starting out with a $1 salt dish when I was 12. When I think about my library of glass books my heart always goes straight to Ruth Webb Lee’s Early American Pressed Glass, my first glass bible, and then to my beloved Lowell Innes. I was 14 when his classic work on Pittsburgh Glass came out. I read that thing over and over, finally writing a fan letter to him and sending it off to the publisher.
Being the lovely man that he was, he wrote me back, and I was able to visit him at his home a few times. I wrote about it a few years back. It’s an important memory for me. Sometimes I tell Ernie that I am like a minor Marty Stuart of 19th century glass and antiques. I fell in love with that world so early that my memories seem out of sync sometimes. Not that I was a performer (dealer) like Marty but I met a lot of greats at a young age.
When I visited Lowell Innes for the first time he told me I must visit the Study Gallery (later to be known as the Jones Museum of Glass and Ceramics) at Sebago Lake in Maine. His friend, Dorothy-Lee Jones, had just founded this gallery/museum. So off we went. I found the place to be magical. You had to twist and turn going up Douglas Mountain Road. To a girl from flat Illinois it was intoxicating albeit a bit unnerving.
We arrived and introduced ourselves. Dorothy-Lee Jones could not have been more lovely. I have a distinct memory of her in the library, perfectly dressed and charming. The collection of glass was simply astounding and the setting, in an old goat barn on family land, was perfect. I chatted to someone else and later came to realize that it was George O. Bird, formerly of the Ford Museum, and I got all excited and fluttery after the fact.
I went there another time or two. Once I remember my sisters being there (we also visited Lowell Innes that trip) and then Ernie and I went at least once. It was truly a special, special place.
I don’t have the inside story on what happened to the Jones Museum. Looking in from the outside it seemed pretty horrific. A former (“resigned amid controversy”) director of the Portland Museum of Art moved in and became director. Dorothy-Lee Jones was forced out, had to file suit to get access to her own collection and building and the museum was closed down. For years there was talk by Holverson and others of it moving to Portland. There was even a banner on the old armory in South Portland (if I’m not mistaken) that we saw on some trip, right at the end of the Casco Bay bridge. It came to nothing and never opened but the whole thing just broke my heart and I can’t imagine what it did to her. Of course, as I said, I don’t know details, I just know that it is something that stuck with me and bothered me over the years. Every so often I go on a mad Google binge and try to find more details. Dorothy-Lee’s obituary says she passed after a decline due to Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a hideous thing, but I hope she forgot this betrayal.
Below is a picture of the building, much as I remember it. I wish I could find later pictures of it. I found photos of the building from just a couple of years ago when it sold for $50,000 and they just kind of break my heart even as they bring back memories.
Of course, as soon as I saw the sad news that she had passed, I immediately thought of Lowell Innes. He’s even mentioned in her obituary:
Dorothy-Lee’s real passion though, was glass and ceramics; even as a child she loved seeing interesting antiques. Lowell Innes was a prominent expert on American glass and good friend of her mother’s and helped to fuel her life-long interest.
Maybe he’ll be mentioned in my obituary too. “Cynthia was fortunate to meet and visit her glass hero, Lowell Innes when she was still in high school. On top of opening his home to her and showing her his glass collection, he teased her about the Calvin Klein denim skirt she was wearing and told her that if she liked Jane Austin she should read Georgette Heyer.”
Last time I wrote about Lowell Innes, his great-niece wrote me a lovely note and shared the photo of their house that I visited so long ago. I was just heartstoppingly happy to have it. It burned down a decade or two ago so now it’s just in our memories. It’s funny. I can almost remember what it smelled like in their house. It smelled like an antique shop. Antique shops don’t smell like that anymore. Lord but I sound old. I remember a beautiful corner cupboard full of glass and glass laid out on their dining room table for me to see. I remember their warmth.
It was really a joy to connect with his great niece and she shared some wonderful stories and memories, as well as the picture below, which I treasure.
Cynthia, this is one of my most favorite pictures. You will recognize Lowell and Lindy, and to the right are my grandparents, Helen and Neil Taylor. The two boys were roommates at Yale, and the girls are sisters, and their maiden names were Frey, and it was their parents who had the home in Waterboro that I went to every summer and that the book “A Time to Recall” was written about.
The picture is obviously from the days of no smiling for pictures because I can’t ever recall seeing Mr. Innes without a big smile.
It all comes back to this tattered book, doesn’t it?
I posted this picture the other day and my beloved Mark Gerking commented on it. He said he was looking forward to this post, that it reminded him of his Dad and his Redwing crocks. I read that late at night as I was lying in bed, going back and forth between a novel and the news and Facebook, and that comment made me tear up. I just felt his understanding. I can’t even explain it but it meant so much to me. The communities we create with one another, whether they are based on physical place or music or antiques, they are beautiful and they are important to remember. Those bonds only become stronger as time goes on.
Onward, with love and gratitude to Lowell Innes, Dorothy-Lee Jones and every other collector and dealer (like my beloved Jim and Diana Eyre) that encouraged a shy Illinois teenager in her love of glass.
I’ll never stop being a glass person (I AM still looking for a Leaf & Dart milk pitcher and I swear, it seems as though there OUGHT to be a six inch plate in Leaf & Dart as well, although I’ve never seen a listing).
Photo at top, c. 2017, is of the building the museum was in on Douglas Mountain Road, Sebago, Maine.