A Postcard from New England:  Storrowton Village Museum

By Carla Charter

In 1926 Helen Osborne Storrow was decorating a temporary structure to depict an early American kitchen for the 1926 Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Ma. A trustee of the Eastern States Exposition and chairwoman of the Home Department, she dreamed of moving the handicraft exhibit to an actual home on site – a building with its own kitchen.

Arthur Gilbert, Commissioner of Agriculture for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, told Storrow about his 18th century summer home. She purchased the farmstead for $200 from Gilbert and moved it from West Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1927.

Storrowton Village Museum, which depicts a New England Village from the 17th century, has grown over the years as other antique buildings were similarly purchased, dismantled, and reconstructed around the Village Green.

 

“Our buildings range in age from 1767 to 1853. We primarily interpret life in the 1830s-1840s but extend our programming to earlier and later time periods as needed to help our visitors understand the historical context and relate it to their lives today,” according to Jessica K. Fontaine, Director of Storrowton Village Museum.

 

Among the other buildings that surround the green are the Phillips House which was built in 1767 and originally stood on High Street in Taunton, Massachusetts. The house was occupied by more than a dozen families over the years until it was moved to Storrowton.

The Union Meeting House was built in 1834. It originally stood at Smith’s Corner in Salisbury, New Hampshire.  It contains a white paneled pulpit is from Concord, New Hampshire. The steeple with clock and bell, cast in 1851, are from Neponset, Massachusetts.

The North Center School was built in 1810 as a model school in Whately, Massachusetts. Children between the ages of 3 to 18 years-old attended the one-room schoolhouse for over 100 years. The blackboards which line all four walls of the classroom, were a feature considered progressive when the structure was built. The bell tower was adapted from a schoolhouse in Vergennes, Vermont.

The Clark Blacksmith Shop was built in Chesterfield, New Hampshire in the middle of the 19th century. and was used by the Clark family until 1868.  The shop sits under a Chestnut tree, a reference to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Village Blacksmith.” The shop houses a rare antique ox sling, a huge frame of heavy beams used to confine an ox for shoeing.

On May 12 the museum will hold a Blacksmith Collaborative offering visitors an interactive look at the trade and artistry of blacksmithing in New England. Special guests will include the 3rd Massachusetts George Washington Continental Army Unit reenactment group, who will lead demonstrations and discussions on the role of blacksmithing during the American Revolution

The Potter Mansion originally stood in North Brookfield, Massachusetts. Its builder was Captain John Potter, a skilled mechanic and tradesman who served as an army officer during the Revolutionary War. The home was occupied by generations of Potters until it passed out of the hands of the family in 1920. It was moved to Storrowton Village in 1929.  Attached is the F. A. Potter Store .

The Eddy Law Office was built in 1810 in Middleboro, Massachusetts. For Zachariah Eddy, a prominent attorney in the 19th century, this office was the center of his legal work and a hot-bed of political and religious discussions.

The Gilbert Farmstead originally stood in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. It was built by Levi Gilbert and his brother, Peletiah, in 1794. The large kitchen has a hearth for cooking over an open fire as well as ample space for household chores such as laundry, cheese and butter making, baking and preparing food for winter storage and overlooks the backyard herb garden.

Storrowton Tavern, a functioning restaurant , is comprised of two antique buildings. The Atkinson Tavern and the Southwick Baptist Meeting House.

The Atkinson Tavern once stood at Atkinson Hollow in the town of Prescott, Massachusetts.                                                                                                                                       The tavern’s original owner, John Atkinson, used it as a store and tavern and home to his family.  Dances and town meetings took place on the second floor of the tavern in what was the largest hall in Prescott. The rooms used by the family were separated from the store and taproom by a hallway. The granite hitching posts, linked with iron chains, remain standing in front of the building. Prescott, along with three other Swift River Valley towns, was claimed by the state to become Quabbin Reservoir.

The Baptist Meeting House was brought to Storrowton Village from Southwick, Mass., in 1930 and was then modified to represent a New England townhouse. The Meeting House was joined to the Atkinson Tavern, already operating as Storrowton Tavern, in 1957, doubling the size of the restaurant.

Upcoming childrens events at the museum include Pioneer Kids Week from April 16-20, an April school vacation program for ages 7-12.  In July 30-August 10, the museum holds Storrowton Village Museum’s Early American Summer Days program for ages 7-12.

Other programs for visitors include an annual Yuletide at Storrowton where local garden clubs, florists, and interior designers donate their time, energy, and expertise to decorate our buildings with their interpretation of 19th century décor. This begins the first weekend in December and continues through the week following with various activities and events

The museum also welcomes volunteers. “We have over 100 volunteers who dress in mid-19th century costumes. We are always looking for more volunteers, especially for the Big E in September In addition to the Big E volunteers support our gardens, blacksmithing work, school program facilitation, and special events. Our volunteers receive extensive training and have many opportunities throughout the year to be involved with our events.”

The museum is open from Monday through Friday from 9-5. More information about the museum and its activities can be found at www.storrowtonvillage.com