Recent Glass Gift Provides Window into Tiffany’s History in Queens
Less than 2 miles from The Neustadt Gallery at the Queens Museum once stood the epicenter of Louis C. Tiffany’s glass production. Dissatisfied with the quantity and types of glass available from commercial manufactories, Tiffany opened his own glasshouse with business partner Arthur J. Nash (1849-1934) on the corner of Main Street and Irving Place (now 43rd Avenue and 97th Place) in Corona, Queens (Fig. 1).1
At the time, Corona’s rural setting offered the privacy necessary to keep Tiffany’s fiercely-guarded glass formulas secret. While visitors were welcome in Tiffany’s Manhattan showrooms, his glass works in Corona were “where no profane eye [was] allowed to penetrate.”2 When the glasshouse was ravaged by fire in late 1893, only a few short months after it opened, Tiffany decided to rebuild on the exact same site — a testament to its ideal location.3
Tiffany’s furnaces, in operation for nearly 40 years, allowed his chemists to freely experiment with new and proprietary glass formulas, yielding highly artistic results ranging from sculptural “drapery” and “ripple” glass to “streaky” and “spotted” glass in every imaginable shade. Today, The Neustadt counts over a quarter of a million examples of this glass, ranging from full, uncut sheets (Fig. 2) to shards the size of a fingernail, in its holdings, now persevered as an archive of Tiffany’s renowned artistry and innovation in glass. Two racks of glass showcasing the dazzling array of colors, textures, patterns, and opacities available to Tiffany’s artisans can be seen on view in The Neustadt Gallery at the Queens Museum (Fig. 3).
Corona, however, was home to more than Tiffany’s furnaces. In 1901, to keep up with the growing needs of his business, Tiffany erected a large complex of studios and workshops across the street from his furnaces (Fig. 4).4 This brick structure eventually housed the Allied Arts Company (later Tiffany Studios), woodworking shops, lamp and chandelier departments, a foundry, and metal shops for brass, bronze and iron — giving Tiffany complete artistic control over every aspect of his production.
Nearly eight decades after Tiffany’s outpost in Corona closed, a cache of opalescent glass was unearthed during the construction of a new elementary school in 2013 (Fig. 5), The Tiffany School — so aptly named as a nod to the site’s history.
Over 1,000 shards of glass found during excavation were generously donated to The Neustadt by the New York City School Construction Authority (SCA), in honor of former NYC Department of Education Deputy Chancellor, Kathleen Grimm (Fig. 6).
Prior to the donation, The Neustadt team examined the cache of glass from The Tiffany School site and pieced together clues to reveal the glass had been used by Tiffany’s Shade Department (Fig. 7). Both the types and colors of the excavated glass—significant quantities of green and white “streaky” glass, plus a colorful assortment of “ripple” and “granite” glass—are consistent with the palette and textures used in Tiffany’s lampshades. Small pieces of cut glass, many of which are rectangular in shape and correspond to Tiffany’s geometric shades, were also discovered. The Neustadt was particularly excited to identify pieces of cut glass matching the popular “Vine Border” lamp –three examples of which are included in our collection (Fig. 8).
In a strange turn of events, many pieces of the excavated glass developed an iridescent surface from being buried in the ground (Fig. 9). One of the things Tiffany endeavored to do at his Corona furnaces was to recreate the same iridescence that he so admired in ancient Roman vessels. What would Tiffany think to see that the glass used for his lamps had naturally acquired a similar iridescence to the one he chased after?
1 First named Stourbridge Glass Company, and later reorganized as Tiffany Furnaces in 1902.
2 Cecelia Waern, “The Industrial Arts of America; The Tiffany Glass and Decorative Co.,” The International Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art 2 (September 1897): 156.
3 "Disastrous Fire at Corona," Newtown Register, November 2, 1893.
4 "Corona's New Industry," Newtown Register 4, no. 4 (January 24, 1901), p. 5.
Citation: Albahary, Morgan. "Recent Glass Gift Provides Window into Tiffany’s History in Queens." In Tiffany Tidbits. New York: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass.