Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Blast from the Massachusetts Past

When I announced I was going to Cape Cod, a co-worker recommended we visit Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA.  It was a wonderful kickoff to a Massachusetts vacation.  We spent part of two days there.

Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) is a "living history" museum - people "living" the life of those in a small village of the 1830's.  Close enough to the Revolutionary War but late enough to be experiencing the fruits (and problems) of the Industrial Revolution. 

Above, an 1830's craftsman  attends to his work.

OSV is ideal for the family with children, because there are so many hand on activities, with always something to do or something to watch.  Also, picnicing is encouraged and water fountains were readily available.   Restrooms were plentiful.  The "residents" were very patient with the visiting children, and skilled in handling crowds.

 I had  two minor complaints which I will get right out of the way:
1.  A family could get nickeled and dimed to death here because the admission is more "a la carte" than some other places.  A boat ride was $5. a person extra, as was a ride on a stagecoach.  This could run into serious money for the average family.  Some of the crafts activities were extra but in all fairness they were "make it and take it" so it would be up to the family to decide if the fee was worth the activity.

2.  Unlike some other "living history" museums I have been to, some of the"residents" stepped out of character.   It was a little disappointing, for example, to hear the tinsmith talk about OSHA regulations.  Again in all fairness, because he was dealing with lead solder, it is possible he had to mention the fact that the use of lead was safe because it did not come in contact with any surfaces that would contact food.  However, other "residents" stepped in and out of the 1830's, in my opinion.  Whether or not that is a bad thing is again for the individual visitor to judge.

In all other ways I was quite pleased with my visit.  One nice thing is that I saw the Village both on a very busy day (the day before Labor Day) and a "dead" day, Labor Day itself.

One crowd pleaser, on Sunday, was the man demonstrating a musket:  as you can guess the children were absolutely entranced at the entire process, including the below (the priming):


These two craftsmen above demonstrate a water driven sawmill.

All of the craftsmen were very skilled and knowledgeable of their craft, and eager to share their knowledge.   I enjoyed the tinsmith especially, and ended up buying a small creamer at the gift shop.  Having soldered myself, I could appreciate this man working with a charcoal fired solder melter.

The buildings on site were mostly moved from other New England towns.  This was never an actual "village". 

Here is one of the waterwheels in action.

This is the "Salem Towne House".  A prosperous family would have lived here.
This is a farm scene.  Seems peaceful, right?  Yet, it was very hard work to maintain, harder than most of us can imagine.

There were a couple of extensive heirloom gardens, with a very informative exhibit on uses of herbs and spices in the 1830's.  At the farm, of course, heirloom animals were being raised.  We ended up buying two heirloom plants and will see if they make it through our winter.

The OSV website has a wealth of information on this and other topics.


The OSV bookstore had an extensive collection of "how to" books, books about history, cookbooks, you name it.  The gift shop wasn't just the usual Made in China stuff but rather had locally or regionally made tinware, redware, pottery, and other surprises.

Finally, on Monday, when all was quiet, we had the chance to converse with some of the craftspeople.  It was obvious, the way they greeted each other (we were there when the village opened), that they enjoy working together.  One, a woman working on a netting project, sat in one of the houses - she explained she was retired and this was a retirement career.  Hmmm....

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