The business was in its heyday in the 1850s and 1860s. By then, competition was starting from places like Pennsylvania and Illinois, which were sitting on these coal fields and gas areas that supplied energy very cheaply.
The Boston and Sandwich Glass Company ended in 1888 when the workers, by this time, wanted a union and a raise. The owners of the factory said they couldn’t afford to pay what they had been paying and shut the factory down.
All the people in the factory had to earn a living somewhere so they left. The population in 1900 was equivalent to what it was in 1825. It took until 1960 for the population to exceed what it was in 1860. The town was really dormant for all that time. The houses were never knocked down or replaced by anything because there was no economic need to do it or economic ability to do it. It was a combination of poverty and historical preservation that saved the houses. And the houses became a great economic value in the 1960s—people bought them and restored them, and that’s why the village looks as good as it does today.
I think Sandwich is distinctive because of its historical nature. You have several museums in town that capture the history from its earliest founding all the way through the glass industry. The village isn’t just a tourist area geared toward shops—it’s really a living community. People still live there, and it really is a picture of what life used to be in that time, when people walked everywhere and didn’t drive their cars.