Cass Forrington (Captain Cass Forrington) is the founder of the Sea Glass Museum in Fort Bragg. The museum is called the International Sea Glass Museum. I googled “sea glass museums” and a quick skim showed me a lot of glass museums, a lot of art glass, lots of sea glass jewelry and a few glass beaches, but no other Sea Glass Museums, so I’m not going to challenge the International designation.
The Museum is on Highway One just south Fort Bragg City limits. If you are headed northbound, it’s on your right about a quarter mile before the Botanical Garden turnoff (which is on your left). There are plenty of signs to the museum, but you may still be confused because it will look like you’re pulling up in front of someone’s home. That’s because the building is part of a duplex that Forrington has converted. Inside, the rooms are very small, I might even say cramped, and filled with display cases showing off thousands of glass shards. The cases are well organized and well catalogued, and the museum sorts the fragments by color, with a little background about each.
The museum also has a black light room, and I strongly recommend you visit it, just to see the glass shards glowing faintly in the dimness.
In the main exhibit room there is a “child-height” display case, something I really appreciated, and the day I was here I as sharing the space with two families with kids, who were peering into the case, pointing out various colors and shapes, and trying to guess what things might have been. (The displays have parts of old, bottles, drinking glasses, tubes, plates and scraps of some ceramic and pottery.)
Forrington also has a couple of his interviews with various TV programs playing in the main exhibit room. A lengthy topic of discussion is whether it is okay to take glass from Fort Bragg’s well-known Glass Beach. Forrington provides a clear explanation of the clause in California’s constitution that regulates state parks, beaches and other lands – the emphasis is on beaches – and explains exactly where you can, legally pick up glass and where you shouldn’t. He is probably correct, and bear in mind that probably, not every law enforcement official in Mendocino County has seen the video.
We’ve all seen sea glass, and we know that the tumbling in the surf and the scratch of sand gives glass an opaque, almost velvety texture. Visiting the museum, I learned a little more about what water and sunlight do to glass, and the ultimate breakdown.
The Sea Glass Museum falls squarely into the Americana category of Roadside Attraction. I expected to see lots of pretty glass. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned. Admission is free but donations are welcomed, and the suggested donation is $2.00/person. You can also buy sea glass jewelry and museum-themed tchotchkes like placemats.
When I pulled in, I saw a sign on the wall that said Unita. I wondered what Unita was; some international sea glass foundation? When I got in my car to leave I looked at the sign again and realized it said Unit A, which is very different.
I recommend this visit. Carrying on the theme, once you’ve seen the museum and visited the botanical garden, walk due north from the garden parking lot and visit the art glass shop Fire and Glass, which has gorgeous works, and, if you’re lucky, a working glassblower in the studio behind the shop.