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  • Old Sturbridge Village, MA

    Old Sturbridge Village, in Sturbridge MA, traces its beginnings to the remarkable collection amassed by industrialists Albert B. and J. Cheney Wells of neighboring Southbridge. The Wells family brought together a wealth of early New England artifacts, including tools, utensils, furniture, glassware, and clocks. The family later dedicated itself to the idea of displaying the collections within a working village, where visitors could better understand how the items were originally crafted and used.

    Old Sturbridge Village first opened to the public on June 8, 1946. We visited 63 years later in October 2009.

     osv04 As we walk from the entrance toward the village center, we pass the Fenno House with its barn to the right. 
     The Friends Meetinghouse is framed by the fall colors of New England. It was built in 1796 in Bolton MA, and was moved to OSV in 1953. osv45 
     osv09  The second year saw the acquisition of the Village's most visible building. The staff had been searching "all over the countryside for a Meetinghouse..." and finally happened upon one belonging to the Baptist Society in the Fiskdale neighborhood of Sturbridge. The Village provided the Society, "by exchange of courtesy," with an organ for its new house of worship. The removal and restoration of the Meetinghouse were completed in early June 1948.
     The interior of the meetinghouse. In those days parishioners bought their pews and decorated them as they liked. osv06 
     osv10  This 18th-century lean-to house, painted white to harmonize with more modern Greek Revival structures on the common, might well have been the home of a minister. Parsonages were not provided rent-free by local churches, and ministers’ families had to buy or rent. A house like this would have cost somewhere around $600 to $800 or rented at the rate of about $50 to $80 a year. Lest this seem outlandishly cheap, we should remember that country ministers’ salaries averaged under $500—payable at the end of the yearly contract. This 1748 house was moved to Old Sturbridge Village in 1940.
     The Fitch House dates from 1737. It was moved from Willimantic CT in 1939.  osv11
     osv12  The Thompson Bank gives the strong impression of safety and security, assuring its shareholders and customers that their business and their money were taken seriously. Chartered in 1833, it was financed through the purchase of its stock by prosperous farmers, merchants, and professional men. The building was constructed soon afterwards. Its Greek Revival style, widely fashionable in the 1830s, makes it a small temple of commerce. The structure served as a bank until 1893, remaining in Thompson for another 70 years, until it was carefully crated and moved to the museum.
     Country lawyers worked in small free-standing offices like this one, built for John McClellan of Woodstock, Connecticut in 1796, or in rooms in their homes. Here they met clients, drafted legal documents, and prepared their cases. This little building was brought to OSV in 1965.  osv48
     osv77  By 1955, the graceful Salem Towne House from nearby Charlton was under restoration at the opposite end of the Common from the Meetinghouse. The Towne House was built in 1796 and moved to the village in 1952.
     Detail of the Towne House front door.  osv15
     osv17 Visitors to the Towne House are met by a docent who provides a guided tour through the home. This was the home of the family of Salem Towne Jr. of Charlton, Massachusetts, who inherited the house at the death of his father in 1825. Salem and Sally Towne headed a well-to-do establishment, but still sometimes worked alongside their hired help to manage the farm, dairy, and the house 
     The formal parlor in the Towne House.  osv18
     osv22  A Towne House bedchamber.
     The Towne House kitchen.  osv25
     osv73  The Dummerston VT covered bridge spans the channel from the Quinebaug River into the Mill Pond.
     The Village's sawmill has been erected on the millpond site that David Wight (1761-1813) of Sturbridge prepared in the 1790s. His first mill burned in 1802 and was replaced with another; but, with the exception of the pond itself, all above-ground evidence of his operation had disappeared by the time the Village was being developed.  osv31
    osv68  From the 13th century until about the middle of the 19th, most sawmills consisted of a straight saw blade strung tight in a rectangular wooden frame, called a sash or gate. The saw sash is connected to a water wheel below it through a crank and by a wooden sweep or pitman arm (the latter taking its name from the man who, before sawmills made him obsolete, stood in a pit below a log and pulled a saw through the wood by hand to make boards). The turning motion of the water wheel is converted to the up and down motion of the saw by the eccentric crank. Some power from the saw sash is used to turn a large gear, called a rag wheel. This in turn moves the carriage which the log rests on, pulling the log through the saw. The saw cuts into the log on its down stroke, and the log moves forward again on the up stroke. After one board is sawed, the log carriage is run back to the other end of the mill, the log moved over, and another board cut. 
     The working gristmill has two grinding stones - one is used in daily demonstrations, while this one has the upper stone removed so we can see the cutting grooves.  osv33
     osv37  Water power under the carding mill.
     All through the Village one sees re-creators portraying life in the 1800's. osv40 
    osv30 For a slight fee, you can ride a stagecoach through the village grounds.
    The colors of autumn around the Fitch House. osv47
    osv49 Asa Knight's store prospered. His center village store in Dummerston, Vermont, grew from a modest one-story building into an imposing two-and-a-half story emporium large enough to stock an ever-expanding variety of products. Men and women came into his store trading butter, cheese, palm leaf hats, even turkeys and knitted socks for their purchases. Completed in 1838, the main structure of the store survived virtually unchanged until its acquisition by Old Sturbridge Village in 1968, almost a century after its doors had closed. The building was studied in detail before being moved to the museum and restored. It was discovered that the earliest part of the store, built in 1810, had been taken down in 1909.
    Stone walls and fall colors - typical New England. osv52
    osv54 Livestock are kept in the village.
    Hervey Brooks, whose potter's workshop has been a working exhibit at Old Sturbridge Village since 1962, made and sold pottery in Goshen, Connecticut, throughout the first two-thirds of the 19th century. osv56
    osv57 This replica kiln was built using archeaological data from the kiln outside Brooks' Goshen shop. The kiln is filled with the pottery to be fired, the large opening is bricked up, and a two-day firing commences. Nowadays the kiln is filled and fired once a year.
    A split-rail fence with the Freeman farm in the background. The Freeman farm was a victim of flooding during Hurricane Diane in 1955, and was moved to higher ground afterwards. The modest one-and-a-half story gambrel-roofed house at the farm was home for Pliny Freeman, his wife Delia, and a varying number of their seven children and kin. The farmhouse was built c1810 in Sturbridge and moved to OSV in 1950. osv60
    osv64 Making fence rails.
    Emerson Bixby was a blacksmith in the rural neighborhood of Barre Four Corners, MA. He purchased this house (c1800) and barn on a one-and-a-half acre lot in 1826. It is one of the "newer" buildings at OSV, having been moved here in 1986. osv75
    osv79 The museum’s Printing Office is a structure that originally sat beside the County Court House in the town of Worcester. It has been substantially restored to its original appearance in early views of the community. It was owned for a period of time by Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831), the noted printer who moved his business from Boston to Worcester during the Revolution to preserve his freedom to publish, and then remained there. It was built in 1780 and moved to OSV in 1951.
    In the tin shop, artisans make various items, such as these lanterns. osv78

    Blacksmith Moses Wilder purchased land in 1802 for a shop in Bolton MA adjoining a stone quarry operated by his wife’s cousins. He probably built the shop now at the museum soon afterwards, using some 400 granite stones from the quarry to form the walls.

    OSV acquired the building in 1957 to replace the former wooden blacksmith shop which burned the year before (an occupational hazard for such structures in the nineteenth century as well).