Auction: Fenton’s final chapter
Preparations being made; factory demolition in June
WILLIAMSTOWN – With fewer than six weeks until the first of three final auctions, the Fenton Glass factory is currently undergoing a whole cataloging operation to prepare for the June demolition of the building.
“We’ll be selling the tools from the maintenance shop, filing cabinets, desks, lockers, chairs and items used in plumbing and all the repairs done in-house back when the factory was still producing in the first auction,” said Mike Voshel, of the Williamstown Auction Center.
Fenton Glass, founded in 1905, employed approximately 725 local residents at its peak as pressers, blowers, finishers, glass mixers, melters, mold maintenance, inspectors, decorators and finishers, along with those who worked in shipping, customer service, sales and product development.
“But the market changed and people weren’t collecting high-quality products anymore,” explained the company’s president, George Fenton. “It changed very rapidly from 2000 to 2011 when we closed.”
And so, more than 110 years after the factory was built above the floodplain in Williamstown, its walls will be torn down in June to make way for the new Williamstown Elementary School.
“It will be a sad day when the walls come down,” said Fenton. “But I think the auction will draw people not only looking to fill a function with our equipment, but also buyers interested in preserving the history of this place.”
The history of the factory and its role in the glass industry will also be archived at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y.
“A couple weeks ago we sent over 200 boxes of files and the history of this place,” said Fenton. “That archive will be one of the most complete resources of company history from the glass industry that they will have.”
Among the records found were personnel records from 1914.
“We drew in people from the area up to a 30-minute drive or so away,” said Fenton. “The skills of the employees were the cornerstone of the business, but second to that were the molds.”
Fenton explained that throughout the lifespan of the plant and the purchase of other glass companies’ molds over the century a collection was amassed between 9,000 and 10,000 strong of cast iron molds for everything from old bus lights to lamp shades and wine stoppers.
“We still haven’t decided if those will be placed up for auction yet,” he said. “The wood patterns and the intricate work that went into making those ran some molds around $8,000 a piece.”
But everything from duct work to fire bricks, paint brushes and specialized decoration tables and displays will have to go from the factory by the end of the day June 3, the final of three auctions.
“We’ll sell much of the glass making equipment during the second auction and then the third will predominately focus on the corporate offices,” said Voshel. “Then the demolition company is looking to get in and begin their work before July.”
All three auctions will be held on-site at the factory, located at 700 Elizabeth St., Williamstown, and will begin at 10 a.m. each day.
The auctions will be May 6, May 20 and June 3.
If you go
Fenton Glass auctions
¯ May 6, May 20 and June 3.
¯ Beginning at 10 a.m. at the Fenton Glass factory.
¯ The factory is located at 700 Elizabeth St., Williamstown.
Source: Mike Voshel, of the Williamstown Auction Center.