Old Sturbridge Village
In the 1920s brothers Albert B. and J. Cheney Wells from Southbridge Massachusetts began collecting old artefacts. By the 1930s they had decided to buy a farm in order to put their collection to good use. Their plan was to develop the farm into a museum in the form of a living historical village. They started to acquire historic buildings for the museum but World War II put completion of their vision on hold. After the war it was the next generation that took over the work and the museum opened to the public in 1946. Old Sturbridge is a re-creation of a New England village between the years of 1790 and 1840. Fifty nine historic buildings, careful design and staff in period dress performing authentic tasks from the era combine to give Old Sturbridge Village a feel of authenticity that is lacking at some open air museums.
Salem Towne House
Built as the residence of a prosperous farmer in 1796, the Salem Towne House was originally located in Charlton, Massachusetts. In 1825 Salem Towne Junior inherited the house from his father and the building is furnished much as it would have been at that time. Although this picture shows an empty garden, shortly after it was taken the illusion of being back in the 19th century was shattered by the arrival of large and noisy parties of school children. Fortunately we had arrived at the museum at opening time and had been able to see much of it before the school children arrived.
While most of the buildings in the museum are original, some are reproductions. The Sawmill is a reproduction built in 1984. It is in an authentic location, the site of a sawmill built in the 1790s by David Wight. The reproduction is based on the Nichols-Colby Sawmill of Bow in New Hampshire which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1939.
Fitch House, yard & barn
Parts of the Fitch House date right back to 1737. It was originally located in Willimantic in Connecticut but was moved to the museum in 1939. The Corn Barn, which dates back to around the beginning of the 19th century, came from North Scituate in Rhode Island. Click Tab 2 to see the Parlour of the Fitch House.
In many Open Air Museums a workshop is no more than a set of tools laid out as they might have been in the past. Old Sturbridge Village is different, as here you will often see an artisan performing the work in the way it was done in the past. The Shoe Shop was built in Sturbridge in the first half of the 19th century, at a time when shoe manufacturing was a major industry in New England. It was moved to the museum in 1939..
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Center Meeting House & Common
With grounds extending to over 80 hectares (200 acres) Old Sturbridge Village has plenty of space and this has helped to create the atmosphere of an old New England village. Not only are the buildings laid out like a proper village of the era, but you are well away from the bustle of modern US life. This picture shows how main village, known as Center Village, has been laid out with a common in the middle. At the end of the common is the Center Meeting House which dates back to 1832. It was originally stood in Sturbridge Village but became redundant when the Baptists who owned it merged with another denomination. It was moved to the museum in 1947.
Scouring wool by the barn
Another example of showing visitors how things used to be done. The Fenno House is the oldest building in the museum, dating back to 1704. The house is laid out as the home of an elderly widow and her unmarried daughter who did some spinning and weaving. The adjacent barn is a modern reproduction and outside it a member of staff in period costume shows how wool was scoured to prepare it for spinning.
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