The Print Shop is cool! You can watch the printer set type and print ads, book pages, and other neat things. It used to take a skilled printer an hour to set the type for one book page--which gives you some idea of why books were so expensive. Print shops in the 19th Century also sold books--there were no bookstores. On display in the OSV print shop are old Bibles, text books, and political pamphlets. The press in the OSV Print Shop was once used in a print shop in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The Society of Friends Meeting House is an authentic 1800s building moved to the Sturbridge Village site from Bolton, Massachusetts. Also known as the Quakers, the Society of Friends' love of simplicity is evident in the construction of the church which consists of little more than row upon row of plain wooden benches. In fact it makes most New England Congregational meeting houses look positively extravagant--which says a lot if you've ever been to one. Visitors are free to look around the building.
The cooper makes both barrels and buckets for water and milk out of wood. Out of all the craftsmen we visited at OSV, I think this one impressed me the most. Making a barrel by hand takes an unbelievable amount of patience and skill. Each wooden stave must be just the right shape and angle to fit under the metal hoop, and together with the other staves. The cooper shapes them all by eye using primitive hand tools. If the staves are not exactly right the whole thing falls apart and into the fire it goes! In 1830s farming communities like OSV the job of a cooper was often done by a farmer to earn extra money in the off-season. The buckets and barrels made by the cooper can be seen in use throughout Sturbridge Village. Unfortunately I don't have a photo for you because the batteries died on my camera and, well, they didn't have batteries in 19th Century New England.
At the OSV blacksmith shop they really make things out of iron. The furnace they use is coal-fired, and much smaller than you'd expect. The shop itself is full of tools and things that they've made there. It's really like going back in time. On the day we visited in April the blacksmith was making an iron spit used to roast meats in a tin oven placed in front of a fire place. It's amazing to see how much time, labor and craftsmanship went into creating such a simple thing--truly a lost art. The blacksmith answers questions while he works.
No, not that annoying preppy housewares store--this is a real pottery barn where you can watch potters making dishes, pots and cups on foot-powered pottery wheels exactly the way they were made in the early 19th Century. Pottery was often made by farmers during the off-season as a way to earn extra money (they were often able to dig up clay deposits on their own land for free). The things the potters make here are fired in a kiln on site and are all for sale in OSV's gift shop.
OSV offers a lot of games and activities for children. Some are educational and structured while others are simply just for fun. One of the things that Miss M liked was playing the old-fashioned push the hoop game--the one you always see kids doing in those old Currier & Ives prints. It's a lot more difficult than it looks! Kids' activities can be found throughout the town; scheduled activities are listing daily on OSV's Web site: www.osv.org.
Sometimes it's fun to try and guess where the building came from. One building was obviously Connecticut style..while others might be from Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Massachusetts. They try to rescue buildings which are in danger of being lost. Of course there is quite an expense to moving them and restoring them...getting them ready to be incorporated into the village...so they have to limit how many they can bring to Sturbridge.
This doorway is part of the Salem Towne House from Charlton, Massachusetts. C.1796, moved to Old Sturbridge Village in 1952. It is described as having an "elegant doorway", which I feel is quite accurate. This is the home of prosperous leaders of the community who brought new fashions and ideas to rural society. Striking, and very well executed by the house carpenter.
NOTICE THE COLUMNS ON EITHER SIDE OF THE DOOR. THEY ARE NOT FLAT PILASTERS, BUT RATHER HALF ROUND.
Early versions of bowling at the side of an old house....or a costumed guide playing baseball in the grass with young visitors, or boys bringing home toy muskets...the kids find lots of interesting things to do at Sturbridge. There was even a huge plastic cow outside the ice cream shop where kids could actually pull the udders and pull milk into a bucket! Another popular spot for little ones was a section where they had fake rocks and fence pieces to build their own colonial stone walls and fences.
Kids were also amused by the guide who was splitting wood out by the barn when you go away from town and visit the old farm.
All of Sturbridge Village is a great learning experience for all ages.
The Saw mill is a reproduction built in 1984 because all the original up and down saw mills had disappeared. The longest standing one had been documented in New Hampshire, but the 1938 hurricane finally destroyed it. Careful research went into the construction of the new mill which stands at the side of the mill pond, which empties into the Quinebaug River. The mill produces sawn boards for use in the museum village. When in operation, the saw cuts only on the downstroke, assisted by gravity as the heavy frame drops. The loud, thumping cadence can be heard all through the neighborhood.
Another favorite for the kids. I stopped in for batteries and just HAD to have some licorice. Nice to sit on the bench out in front of the store. You can find freshly baked cookies, crafts, toys, and games. Heirloom seeds and plants are available along with a variety of other goods. Naturally in the early general store we would have found many practical items for daily life as well.
The 1700's herb garden was vital to the cooking but also for many home remedies. This garden is really beautifully done with several plateaus, old stone steps and walls, lovely walkways lined with poppies, and several fruit trees scattered around. Plant markers help us identify various species. Inside the gift shop, you can purchase cook books with old fashioned recipes.
The blacksmith shop is always a favorite stop for kids and the men who visit the village. Moved from Bolton, Massachusetts in 1957, the shop dates to 1802 - 10. Anvils, hammers, tongs, flatters, and fullers are used with intense heat on iron or steel. Blacksmiths fashioned needed items and repaired broken ones for the whole community.
Some of the decorative hooks made in the blacksmith shop are sold in the gift store. I chose a hook that will spike into my hall ceiling and hold a lantern.
When the fires are stoked and the bellows are pumping, visitors love watching the smithy pound the iron into the right shape.
Guides explained that farm animals such as cows are not shoed...only working animals such as horses or oxen who pull weight.
The building is a wonderful stone structure made from 400 granite stones from a local quarry to form the walls.
Travelling through these properties with my historic architect friend, Lombard, I always learn little known details about these old buildings. For instance, this mantlepiece shows an error by the carpenter who mis-read the plans from England. The plans were showing a side view of the detail at the end of the mantle, but the carpenter built it into the wall as a flat piece. Do you see it at the right end of the mantle shelf?
Also noticed the very practical solution for trying to hang things on these old lathe and plaster walls. A simple beaded board was built into the wall before plastering right up to it. Later the family's precious clock or other heavy object could be hung with assurance it wouldn't fall off the wall. How many holes have we made in our old plaster over the years? Trying to find a stud in these old houses is darned near impossible. Think I'll use this idea in our latest restoration work in our front hall. It's a simple yet clever solution.
These are the details which fascinate Lombard and I...and little wonder other people grow tired of our continuous fascination with such things. We chatter for hours about such detail. :-)
The Tin Shop seems to be a favorite stop for most people. Two "tinners" work in the shop...snipping, hammering, punching and bending their lanterns, pails and candle holders as they talk with visitors. They demonstrate the machines used by the early tinner and discuss matters of their day. When we visited, one tinner was talking about the amount of alcahol consumed by these early settlers. Continuous drinking throughout the day, beer brewed at home by mom, who used it for baking bread....he was full of stories and information.
Tin shop owners purchased tinplated sheet iron imported from England, shaped it into a variety of forms, and distributed finished goods wholesale through peddlers, and country stores..or sold at retail from their own shops.
Some shops finished the tinware by applying a lacquer finish that ranged from golden brown to almost black. These "japanned" surfaces were either the finish coat or the background for a freehand or stenciled decoration.
There was a fabulous arbor at the side yard of the Salem Towne House from Charlton, Mass. C.1796. The house was moved to Old Sturbridge Village in 1952. Sitting at the head of the town green, it is an impressive building. Totally updated in the 1800's, the style blends with the 1800 date for the village.
Brick walks and a gazebo combine with perennials and boxwood hedge to create a beautful garden spot to rest or talk to guides who are positioned in the garden to discuss early activities such as their knitting.