The property that is now known as the Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary was purchased in 1851 by Captain Aaron Flower, a New York hotelier. At that time, the main building was the farmhouse of a working farm complete with outbuildings, barns and extensive pastures.
In 1862, Captain Flower sold the property to his friend Christian Dorflinger. Dorflinger, who often visited the farm as a respite from his busy glass manufacturing works in Brooklyn, New York, moved his family permanently to White Mills in the mid-1860’s.
In 1865, Christian set about building a new glassworks, which soon became the most important glass manufacturing company in the country. In 1873, the Dorflinger family moved to the St. Charles Hotel in the village of White Mills, and the farmhouse was rented to a series of tenants and divided to accommodate several families, including some who worked in the glass factory.
Upon Christian’s death in 1915, the farm was bequeathed to his unmarried daughters, Nellie Jane and Katharine Louise. A third daughter, Mary Elizabeth Dorflinger Suydam, lived at the farm for a number of years. Some years later, her son Frederick Suydam and his wife, Dorothy Grant, began using the main house as a summer residence.
Frederick died in 1960 and Dorothy in 1979. Her Will stipulated the property was to be used a wildlife sanctuary in memory of her late husband. June D. Hardy, a great-granddaughter of Christian Dorflinger and cousin of Fred Suydam, was given a life interest in the buildings of the estate. She retained the guest house, but generously relinquished her interest in the other buildings.
In 1980, under the guidance of Roger M. Blough, the Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc., was formed to further natural history, conservation, artistic and cultural education and to serve the people as an agency for popular enlightenment, cultural improvement and scientific progress, recognizing through its programs the essential relationship among the natural, artistic and historic elements of the area.
The Suydams lovingly cared for the property for more than 50 years. Today we have the Suydams to thank for the extraordinary setting and beauty of the Sanctuary. The trees they planted decades ago provide us with the serene view we encounter as we walk along the trails. Fred and Dorothy’s generous gift of their home to the community will be treasured by visitors well into the next millenium. As we wander through the grounds, let us not forget to stop and say “thank you” to Fred and Dorothy!