On an RV trip through New England we spent a fun day touring Old Sturbridge Village, one of the country’s oldest and largest living history museums. The museum depicts life in rural New England in the time period from 1790-1840.
The period portrayed by Old Sturbridge Village is of major significance because it was a time in which the everyday lives of New Englanders were transformed by the growth of commerce and manufacturing, improvements in agriculture and transportation technology, the challenges of emigration and urbanization, and the tides of educational, political, aesthetic, and social change.
Old Sturbridge Village traces its beginnings to the remarkable collection amassed by industrialists Albert B. and J. Cheney Wells of neighboring Southbridge. The Wells family accumulated a wealth of early New England artifacts including tools, utensils, furniture, glassware, and clocks. Wishing to share what they had, the family dedicated itself to the idea of displaying the collections within a working village, where visitors could better understand how the items were originally crafted and used.
The village first opened to the public on June 8, 1946, and since that time, more than 21 million adults and children have visited Old Sturbridge Village and the museum has received international recognition for its dedication to research and education.
A trip to Old Sturbridge Village is a journey through time. Visitors can step into more than 40 original buildings, each carefully researched, restored, and brought to the museum site from towns throughout New England. These include homes, meetinghouses, a district school, old time church, country store, bank, law office, printing office, carding mill, sawmill, gristmill, pottery barn, blacksmith shop, shoe shop, and cooper shop.
In many of the buildings and walking about the grounds, costumed historians greet visitors and tell them about what life was like long before we had electric lighting, telephones, automobiles, and the internet. Visitors can walk along country lanes and visit with a farmer plowing his fields, listen to the blacksmith’s hammering as he creates horseshoes and tools, and smell the aroma of bread baking in a fireplace oven. With more than 200 acres to explore, there is something new to see everywhere you look at Old Sturbridge Village.
Before we started our tour of the village we stopped to admire the beautiful quilts on display at the Visitor Center and an awesome collection of antique clocks.
It’s easy to get lost in time as you tour Old Sturbridge Village, but I guess that’s the point after all, isn’t it? We stopped for a while to chat with these two young girls who were dying wool in pots over an open fire.
As most of our readers know, Miss Terry is fascinated with fibers, so she really enjoyed our visit to the carding mill, where wool is processed to make it ready for spinning. These giant machines take in piles of raw wool at one end and it comes out the other as roving, ready to spin.
And what’s a New England village without a covered bridge?
If you get tired of walking, you can always hop on the free horse-drawn carryall for a narrated ride. It’s your choice with this ride; you can sit in back where it’s really bumpy, or you can sit up front and hope you don’t come away with “freckles” from the horses.
As we walked through the village we stopped to watch these young ladies going about their chores, and then a group of children and adults enjoying a round dance on the village green.
This fellow was demonstrating how to load and fire a flintlock musket, and everybody jumped when he pulled the trigger.
Terry had a nice conversation with this lady, who was demonstrating both a loom and a large spinning wheel. I have often said I would love to play the role of a country editor at a living history attraction. By the time Terry was finished talking with this lady, she was saying that she would love to have her job!
Many of the old homes were furnished in period style, from the very comfortable home of Salem Towne, a wealthy farmer and businessman, to a simple working man’s more modest house (below).
Other buildings were filled with collections of firearms, textiles, lighting devices, glassware, and all sorts of other interesting things.
The village is also a working farm where visitors can see heritage breed animals and learn how crops are planted and harvested. The food chain doesn’t begin at the grocery store!
Everywhere we went in Old Sturbridge Village we found something new to delight us. And being dedicated readers, the bookstore across from the Visitor Center was yet another delight. Though we both have Kindle’s, many regional history, travel and reference books are not available in digital format. And we found a bunch of great books to bring home with us!
While an average visit is between three and four hours, we spent an entire day at Old Sturbridge Village, and many visitors choose to return for a second day. Return guests are admitted free for second visit within a 10-day period.
Over half of the village’s historical buildings have wheelchair-accessible entrances, though interior access varies. The Village’s unpaved roads are generally firm and stable. Most roads are level, with steeper grades located near the Bullard Tavern, Glass Exhibit, and Herb Garden. Longer, more gradual grades are located near the Visitor Center and Freeman Farmhouse. Wheelchairs are available at the ticketing area
Old Sturbridge Village is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through September, with a reduced schedule December through March. The village is closed or on a reduced schedule during October and November.
Admission to Old Sturbridge Village is $28 for adults, $26 for seniors 65 and over, $14 for youth age 4-17, and children age 3 and under are admitted free.
There is plenty of free parking at the village, with spaces reserved for larger vehicles like RVs. While there are no facilities for overnight camping at the village, there are a number of nearby campgrounds.
Old Sturbridge Village is located at 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, near the intersection of Interstate 90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike) and Interstate 84, an hour west of Boston. For more information call (800) 733-1830 or visit their website at www.osv.org.
Have entered our latest Free Drawing yet? This week’s prize is an audiobook on CD of The Ghost of Marlow House the first book in my pal Bobbi Holmes’ excellent Haunting Danielle mystery series about a woman who inherits a house on the Oregon Coast that she intends to turn into a bed and breakfast, only to discover that one of the house’s previous owners is still in residence, even though he’s been dead for almost ninety years. Bobbi is a great storyteller, and you won’t get past the first chapter without knowing why her series has so many fans. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – Dear Santa, for Christmas please send me your list of naughty girls and their phone numbers.