On August 13th, I got to visit Old Sturbridge Village! It's a living history museum reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg and the Frontier Culture Museum, both of which reside in Virginia. Old Sturbridge Village is located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts and allows visitors to stroll through early New England life. The museum spans the years of 1790 - 1840 and even houses a real working farm! It provides an opportunity to learn about history in a fun, hands-on way. 21 million adults and children have visited Old Sturbridge Village since its opening on June 8, 1946!
For this outing, I elected not to wear a historical costume. However, I didn't need to - there was a photo-op available for me to try. I soon found myself transformed into a young lady living in Sturbridge, circa the early 1800s:
"Early New Englanders called their worship services meetings, and where they worshiped meetighouses. The Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) in Bolton, Massachusetts built this one in 1796 (and moved to Sturbridge in 1953). While a substantial building, it is rather plain. Since the Friends do not have professional clergy or regular sermons, there is no need for a pulpit (as everyone sits in silence unless someone feels moved enough to speak!)."
Also like Colonial Williamsburg, there are many costumed interpreters who work at the museum, on hand to provide you with interesting anecdotes:
I thought this grave was amusing, what with the release of the newest American Girl historical, Caroline Abbott. This grave is for someone named Caroline! However, it is not real - it's merely a prop!
Not all the residents of Sturbridge were Friends, however - there is also a church, though it's called the Center Meetinghouse. The Center Meetinghouse was built in 1832 right here in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Churches from a variety of denominations sprang up all over New England after the Revolution; this particular one belonged to the Sturbridge Baptist Society. However, meetinghouses like this one were used for other functions as well, including town meetings and concerts.
If I remember right, this is the Knight Store. It was here that I had a pleasant conversation with the shop-mistress, who very much recognized who I was. Don't you love when you go off traveling somewhere and instantly spark conversation with people who you meet along the way? I do.
The Knight Store, or the Asa Knight Store, was built circa 1810 in Dummerston, Vermont, with additions in 1826 and 1838-1839. It was moved to Sturbridge in 1972. A New England country store like this one sold everything from cotton textiles (from England, France, and India), to teas and coffees (from China, Arabia, Greece, the East/West Indies, and South America), to American-made shoes and tools. Paying with cash was rare; only about a quarter of customers paid with cash. Instead, customers would pay for their goods with other goods, including butter, cheese, and turkeys - things they had raised or made on a farm.
When I left the store, I toured one of the houses, which I think might've been the Parsonage (which was built in East Brookfield, Massachusetts in 1748). Inside, I found this darling little rocking potty chair. My guardian actually had a wooden potty chair much like this one, but it wasn't on rockers! We both thought the rockers were a neat touch.
The master bedroom in the Parsonage had an elegant bed much like the ones in Felicity and Elizabeth's collection. However, not everyone got to sleep in such luxury - the children and/or the hired help had to sleep in the attic on beds much more like Addy's!
Here is another bedroom in the Parsonage:
Here I am seated on a table in Bullard Tavern. The sign next to me reads, "In the early 19th century, most taverns served meals on a fixed schedule. Everyone crowded into the parlor to sit at a single long table, which was usually formed by pushing several smaller ones together. There were no menus. Travelers ate what was put on the table or went hungry until the next meal. Guests who arrived too late for mealtime had to wait - unless a hospitable landlady heated up some leftovers or provided a small plate of cold meat and bread."
Bullard Tavern had several amusements on hand to occupy people waiting for food. There was a game of draughts (checkers) set up on a table and a notice board filled with rather unusual advertisements. I found this Ventriloquism advertisement particularly amusing; click on the image to read it!
Peering out the window of the tavern, I could see this gorgeous yellow carriage that really reminded me of Felicity's! Periodically throughout my visit, I could see visitors riding in the carriage.
This is the Salem Towne House. "The Salem Towne House, built in 1796 in Charlton, Massachusetts, draws on a rural interpretation of the Adam or Federal architectural style. Between the 1780s and the 1820s, the first years of the American federal republic, this was the architectural high-style for both civil and domestic architecture. Using details from around the Mediterranean region, architects of the mid to late 1700s published books that provided builders with scale drawings and plans for creating contemporary buildings. One such book was the Practical Builder, or Workman's General Assistant, written by William Pain and published in London in 1774. An American edition of this book was published in Boston in 1792. Many of the details in the Salem Towne House, such as the trim and fanlights of the building's doors, came right from Pain's book, though modified in ways that suited the preferences and wallet of Salem Towne, as well as the abilities of the builder.
By the early 1900s the Towne House had become an important local landmark. The house remained in the hands of the Towne family into the early years of the 1900s, and experienced very little modification before it was moved to Old Sturbridge Village in 1952."
The Salem Towne House had the loveliest garden! I loved the gazebo nestled among the trees, flowers, and pathways. I ran right up to it and pretended that I was Liesl in The Sound of Music, dancing around with Rolf.
Next to the Salem Towne House, I saw some cows! I was so tickled when I was able to snap a photo of this one looking at me. What do you think she's saying?
This is the Fitch House (built in Willimantic, Connecticut in 1737). It is arguably the best house in Old Sturbridge Village because visitors get to touch the artifacts! There are very few items behind glass in here because sometimes the best way to learn about history is to actually experience it for yourself.
For instance, I got to try out a real rope bed (that is very similar to Addy's!):
I washed my hands in a real washstand. "Washstands were just beginning to come into vogue in the 1830s. Before then, people washed themselves in a small basin of water in the kitchen or bed room. This was not immersion bathing but rather more like a sponge bath. The use of soap for bathing was just becoming popular; water and a brisk scrubbing sufficed for most people."
I played with a doll cradle (like the one Felicity's baby sister, Polly, slept in!) and got to sit in one that was my size.
I found a lovely wooden rocking horse to ride:
I pretended to serve tea with this gorgeous painted tea set, and then I caught up on all of the news in the Boston Daily Advertiser.
In the kitchen, I did some washing with a bucket large enough to be my bathtub! By the time I'd finished, I was very thankful for the modern washing machine and dryer!
. . . are you sure this is the restroom? What if I fell through the hole? I think I'll pass!
When I left Fitch House, I noticed some young costumed interpreters had congregated by the water pump. One of the boys was pumping water into a large bucket, while the other was playing with a Jacob's Ladder toy. There were two girls just watching. Eventually, the girls left, but the boy pumping water kept at it for a while longer. Imagine having to go pump water outside every time you were thirsty, wanted to bathe, or just needed water for some other use?
"New England children usually began to attend school when they were four, sitting in the front seats to learn the alphabet from their spelling books and then going on to reading. At about seven they began to study geography, followed by penmanship at nine, and arithmetic and more difficult reading between ten and twelve. Older students worked in history and grammar books. With anywhere from 20 to 50 students of all ages in attendance, discipline was often hard to maintain and punishments were sometimes severe. Teachers were generally between 17 and 25 years old and ordinarily had just a district school education themselves. Traditionally, women had taught only young children in the summer term, but in the 1830s they were beginning to be hired for winter school terms as well. School committees were coming to see them as more effective teachers—and less expensive—than men."
What did you do this past summer? Did you go on vacation? If so, where?