House of Glass
By JJ SWANSON
Central Kitsap Reporter staff
November 28, 2011 · 1:45 PM
When glass artist Lisa Stirrett first walked into the old glass factory on the corner of Silverdale Way and Bucklin Hill she saw more than a crumbling building.
The renowned Pacific Northwest artist, best known locally for her work at the Bremerton Ferry terminal, explained that many in the community viewed the old Dahl Glass Company as an "eyesore" which was too run-down to be left standing in the middle of the busy thoroughfare on Silverdale Way, just south of Bucklin Hill Road.
"It was ready to fall down when we saw it, but I jumped up and down anyway. I was so excited. My dad, who is actually a realtor, laughed at me," said Stirrett.
The building itself is a piece of Silverdale history. It's wood truss ceiling and domed exterior are a blast from the architectural past, and its previous owners were prominent figures in the town's commerce in the 1940s and 1950s.
Ole Dahl purchased the building in the 1946 to be used as a cabinet shop, run with the help of his two sons Harold and Olaf. The shop eventually transformed into a thriving glass manufacturing warehouse, responding to the community's need for shop window panes, mirrors, and glass tops. The Dahls became one of the main suppliers of glass in the area, according to the company's online history page.
Eventually, the Dahls expanded and moved to their final location on Clear Creek Road, selling the old glass factory to machinist George Degroot in the early 1990s. Locals brought their mowers, tractors, and any other bit or part to Degroot for repair.
Stirrett admitted that same days she feels like she's bit off more than she can chew with the restoration work.
"Well, it's in a flood zone, so we had to have the whole floor raised about a foot a month ago. That was a huge project," she said.
In addition, restoring the building required sheet rocking, sanding and staining of damaged floors, painting, adding new plumbing, and reinforcing the ceilings with metal and peeler poles.
Stirrett said that it was paramount that they keep everything as historically accurate as possible. That means keeping the look of the original wood ceilings, reinforced by a network of trusses. She will also leave the original half divider walls and a vintage spindle to crank open the garage door.
"My engineer, Ken Schwartz, is doing some unbelievable things in there," said Stirrett.
The building does not currently have enough energy to power Stirrett's two glass-firing kilns. So Puget Sound Energy will be making a special trip out to install transformers.
"It's costing twice the amount we thought to renovate, but it's so worth it," said Stirrett.
The artist believes that the new space will open a world of possibilities for her studio and other artists in the community. Her current gallery on Munson Street in Silverdale has been limiting. In the renovated glass factory she will have room for a gallery in front, classrooms for instruction in the back, a personal office, and even additional gallery space for other local artists.
"I'm definitely planning to feature other artists in the space," said Stirrett.
History will also be showcased in the new gallery. Patrons at opening night will enter the gallery through a permanent collection of black and white photos depicting the Dahl and Degroot families contributions to Kitsap County commerce.
Stirrett explained that the front of the building which comes to a "V" shape is the ideal place for such a collection along with cowhide seating and a free tea and goodie bar.
"Right away, people can enjoy a little tea and history as they walk through and learn about the space," said Stirrett.
Photos will come from the personal archives of the families who, according Stirrett, are thrilled with her efforts in preservation. Additional materials will be loaned by the Kitsap Historical Society.
Stirrett is also working on a number of art pieces that use the original wood and glass from the building structure. These pieces quite literally fuse the old with the new. Some of the past-meets-present pieces will be for sale, while others, Stirrett admitted, are going directly into her personal collection.
The planned opening date of the new glass studio was Christmas day, but Stirrett said that she is unsure with the current construction schedule.
At the moment, she is asking regular patrons to plan on celebrating Christmas at the old Munson Street location.
"It will be, to the last day work, work, work, but this space is so totally me, so totally imperfect," said Stirrett.
Contact Central Kitsap Reporter staff JJ Swanson at email@example.com or (360) 308-9161 ext.5062.