Topic: Berkshires

On Common Ground | Old Sturbridge Village

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Sturbridge Village Goods

Photo/art by Hilton/Rivlin

The village's potter turns a "redware" vessel, made from local clay.

The village's potter turns a "redware" vessel, made from local clay.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

A tinner crafts a patterned sheet that will become part of a lantern or cookware.

A tinner crafts a patterned sheet that will become part of a lantern or cookware.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

A shoemaker trims an innersole against a wooden last, the form around which he'll construct the footwear.

A shoemaker trims an innersole against a wooden last, the form around which he'll construct the footwear.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

The early-19th-century Freeman homestead remains a working agricultural operation today, following the timeless rhythm of the seasons. The house, built c. 1810 a few miles south of central Sturbridge, was bought in 1828 by Pliny and Delia Freeman. They were in their late forties, and raised the two youngest of their seven children here. Their home was relocated to Old Sturbridge Village in 1950, a century after Pliny had retired from farming. The barn was constructed c. 1840 in neighboring Charlton, Massachusetts, and was moved to the museum's property in 1951.

The early-19th-century Freeman homestead remains a working agricultural operation today, following the timeless rhythm of the seasons. The house, built c. 1810 a few miles south of central Sturbridge, was bought in 1828 by Pliny and Delia Freeman. They were in their late forties, and raised the two youngest of their seven children here. Their home was relocated to Old Sturbridge Village in 1950, a century after Pliny had retired from farming. The barn was constructed c. 1840 in neighboring Charlton, Massachusetts, and was moved to the museum's property in 1951.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

Upstairs, the chidren's beds are in the garret, a narrow space under the eaves above the kitchen at the back of the house, where the family's trunks, barrels, and other household belongings are stored. Mattresses, whether filled with straw or feathers, rest on a web of ropes. Topping linen sheets and wool blankets are a quilt (left) and a hand-woven coverlet (right). Space was at a premium in early American homes, so each bed might accommodate two or even three girls.

Upstairs, the chidren's beds are in the garret, a narrow space under the eaves above the kitchen at the back of the house, where the family's trunks, barrels, and other household belongings are stored. Mattresses, whether filled with straw or feathers, rest on a web of ropes. Topping linen sheets and wool blankets are a quilt (left) and a hand-woven coverlet (right). Space was at a premium in early American homes, so each bed might accommodate two or even three girls.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

In the parlor of the c. 1748 Solomon Richardson home, built in the "lean-to" (now called "saltbox") style, the woman of the house pauses as she brings serving bowls--of imported English transferware--to the kitchen. She's expecting company for dinner, so has donned her good dress and a freshly starched cap with silk ribbon.

In the parlor of the c. 1748 Solomon Richardson home, built in the "lean-to" (now called "saltbox") style, the woman of the house pauses as she brings serving bowls--of imported English transferware--to the kitchen. She's expecting company for dinner, so has donned her good dress and a freshly starched cap with silk ribbon.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

This room is a "buttery," off the kitchen of the Freeman Farmhouse. Most New England farm families in the early 1800s kept cows; the women of the house churned butter in the cool of spring and fall when milk could be set out in large shallow pans for the cream to rise. In summer they preserved excess milk by making cheese; surplus butter and cheese, sold locally and as far as Boston, were important sources of income for Yankee farmers.

This room is a "buttery," off the kitchen of the Freeman Farmhouse. Most New England farm families in the early 1800s kept cows; the women of the house churned butter in the cool of spring and fall when milk could be set out in large shallow pans for the cream to rise. In summer they preserved excess milk by making cheese; surplus butter and cheese, sold locally and as far as Boston, were important sources of income for Yankee farmers.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

At his forge, the town blacksmith makes and repairs iron and steel tools for kitchen and farm.

At his forge, the town blacksmith makes and repairs iron and steel tools for kitchen and farm.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

In early New England, local country stores, such as Asa Knight's, pictured here, stocked items that farmers couldn't produce on their own: essentials such as rum and brandy, spices, tea and coffee, sugar, shoes, and textiles. Cash was in short supply, so most storekeepers gave credit for customers' surplus butter, cheese, and produce, which they sold in cities such as Boston; in turn they brought manufactured and imported goods back home.

In early New England, local country stores, such as Asa Knight's, pictured here, stocked items that farmers couldn't produce on their own: essentials such as rum and brandy, spices, tea and coffee, sugar, shoes, and textiles. Cash was in short supply, so most storekeepers gave credit for customers' surplus butter, cheese, and produce, which they sold in cities such as Boston; in turn they brought manufactured and imported goods back home.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

In the early New England countryside, late fall through winter was a time for more-relaxed socializing, as seen here in the ballroom of the Salem Towne House, home of a prosperous merchant. With fields and gardens dormant, rural people had more time for visiting family and friends. One popular pastime was the "quilting frolic," when neighborhood women would gather to talk and sew. A good hostess had to provide refreshments, and sometimes one member of the party would entertain the rest by reading aloud.

In the early New England countryside, late fall through winter was a time for more-relaxed socializing, as seen here in the ballroom of the Salem Towne House, home of a prosperous merchant. With fields and gardens dormant, rural people had more time for visiting family and friends. One popular pastime was the "quilting frolic," when neighborhood women would gather to talk and sew. A good hostess had to provide refreshments, and sometimes one member of the party would entertain the rest by reading aloud.

Photo/art by Hornick/Rivlin

Amid the rolling hills of south-central Massachusetts, a cluster of 19th-century homes and shops stand arrayed around a pretty green.

On the crisp air of late fall come the lowing of oxen and the rustle of leaves underfoot; a chorus of voices rises from the meetinghouse and echoes across the common on the thin breeze. The tang of woodsmoke and the warm aroma of baking bread waft over the landscape; as the days grow shorter, harvest season is drawing to a close here in Old Sturbridge Village.

Immersed in the rhythms and rituals of rural New England, this outdoor living-history museum brings to life the everyday culture of an early-19th-century town. It is a working community of the 1830s, preserving the artifacts and experiences of our vanished past. The museum’s interpreters, dressed in period costumes handcrafted on site, invite us to step into history, to peel back the layers of time and discover the resilience of spirit that defied the harsh challenges these early New Englanders faced.

As we touch the worn surfaces of their homes and workrooms, as we read their letters and diaries, the tapestry of their lives opens to us, and we recognize ourselves in them. These relics of a seemingly distant era become a window through which we realize most intensely the familiar, shared traditions and values of our common heritage–and in doing so, we come to a fuller appreciation of the hardships and sacrifices, the ordinary joys and celebrations, of the people who came before us. History becomes an inviting journey into their legacy, a personal encounter that yields a deeper understanding of our own time, as well, and of the people we have now become.

Learn more on the Freemans and their life in Sturbridge as seen through their own family correspondence.

Old Sturbridge Village 29 Stallion Hill Road (off Route 20), Sturbridge, MA 800-733-1830; osv.org

Special thanks to interpreters Kathy Kime, Howard Forte, Ryan Beckman, Monique Schelegel, Victoria Belisle, Jean Contino, Erica Hout, Deb Knight, Amanda Evans, Katie Wade, Rob Lyon, Derek Heideman, Jeff Friedman, Peter Oakley, William Hood, Benjamin Hood, Rhys Simmons

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