We are fortunate to live in New England surrounded by so much history and so many places and people who preserve and celebrate this heritage. Old Sturbridge Village is one of those magical places; a recreated village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts filled with relevant architectural buildings and characters from our region’s early days including a schoolhouse from Candia, New Hampshire circa 1800-1810, a grand home from Charlton, Massachusetts circa 1796, a modest farmhouse and barn from different towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut circa early 1800s, a wool carding mill from South Waterford, Maine circa 1840. And, to make the picture complete, the town is also filled with the people who would have made the town run. I could go on, but it is a testament to the work they are doing that all of these buildings and period details have been beautifully and authentically maintained in one fictional town that allows visitors to step back in time and see and hear what life might have been like in the early 1800s in New England.
I was lucky enough to take both of my two young daughters mid-week during their school vacation to experience the village en route to my sister’s in Pennsylvania. My parents had surprised us at Christmas with passes to OSV and an overnight stay at the Publick House. We had a perfect spring day and the afternoon turned out to be an excellent start to our vacation. Ann Lindblad who worked so tirelessly with our art director Lori Pedrick and photographers Sandy Hornick and Rick Rivlin on the Old Sturbridge Village photo essay in our November/December 2012 issue had lined up a couple of activities for the girls. We spent some time making tin heart shaped cookie cutters with tinner Richard Eckert and helped to shape some pots on the pottery wheel with potter Howard Forte who also just happened to be the model storekeeper from our photo essay in the magazine. A lovely man who used to make his home in Nelson, New Hampshire, not far from the Yankee offices in Dublin.
There is nothing as beautiful as watching the wide-eyed enthusiasm of your child experiencing a place for the first time. We spent time literally running from building to building stopping to linger in some to hear a tale, bypassing others, basically following what spoke to one or all of us. To that end, much of our time was spent at the Freeman Farm. My older daughter Ella became something of a sheep whisperer and my younger daughter Lucy finally got over her fear of chickens. And, we were lucky enough to also help with the naming of the two 12 week old piglets who had arrived recently. Farmer Scott Corey agreed Ella and Lucy would make fine names. At the farmhouse, Ella had a good chat with quilter Laura Chilson about what she was working on and also learned about the very strong smelling pickling jars in the kitchen. Ella experienced the pungent odor first hand which she shared several times with her younger sister. We also talked with Laura about what was missing from her kitchen that we might have in our own homes today.
We sat in the schoolhouse and learned from schoolmaster Thruse Hammer that the building was originally from our home state of New Hampshire, that in a typical school of that day, there would be 20-50 students packed in a single room with students of all ages starting at about age four or five and going well into their mid-teens, that there was no school in spring and autumn to accommodate planting and the harvest. I’m not sure the girls processed all of it while they were trying out every seat in the room, but I was taking it all in understanding how different our lives are today. Easier in some ways, but definitely more complicated in others. One of our last stops was at the shoemaker’s cottage. Lucy I think was most taken with shoemaker Peter Oakley that day. She sat on a cobbler’s bench enthralled by the process of making a single shoe as he methodically tacked small wooden pegs into the sole. Ella was a bit more anxious to move on, ready to hit the general store with money burning in her pocket from her father. Our official last stop came soon after at the store, where we found a few trinkets to take home, a tin whistle for Lucy, a stuffed chipmunk for Ella and a wooden puddle jumper for one of their cousins.
At the end of the day, we found our way down the road just a couple of miles to the Publick House in town. We had a relaxing dinner in the pumpkin room and we learned the room was aptly named for the wide pumpkin pine walls surrounding us. We quietly headed up the stairs to our room directly above our dining spot and tucked into our king sized bed together. Even the town bells and mild chatter of the diners downstairs couldn’t keep us from sleep and dreams of another place and time.
To see hornick/rivlin’s photo essay…