Tucked away on a narrow two-lane road in Sandwich, Massachusetts we discovered the wonderful Heritage Museum and Gardens, a combination art museum, old car museum, museum of New England history, and delightfully landscaped gardens. This place was a real hidden gem!
Founded in 1969, the 100+ acre museum complex is southern New England’s largest public garden, and I’m glad we arrived early in the day because there was so much to see and do.
After getting our tickets at the Main building, our first stop was this beautiful round barn, modeled after the stone dairy barn at the Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
We didn’t find any cows inside waiting to be milked, but rather a beautiful collection of world class antique cars dating back to the earliest days of automotive engineering. There was everything from a Stanley Steamer, to a beautiful yellow Duesenberg, a couple of Woody wagons, and more.
This 1937 Duesenberg Model J Derham Tourster was originally owned by movie star Gary Cooper and is one of only eight of this model ever produced. The original cost was $14,000, and it sported a powerful 265 horsepower Straight 8 motor. The car could accelerate to 90 mph in second gear, and hit 120 in high gear.
Another beautiful automobile in the collection was this sleek 1937 Cord Phaeton, whose design influenced car makers for years to come.
I’m an old car guy (as opposed to an OLD car guy), though I guess I fit in that category, too, since I turn 67 today, so I really enjoyed seeing these beautiful antique automobiles.
We left the automotive display and walked further down the path where we came upon this beautiful windmill, which was built in 1800 and help to supply Union troops with ground corn during the Civil War.
The museum complex covers many acres of manicured and exquisitely groomed gardens, with paved pathways, as well as nature trails for those who feel a bit more adventurous. All along the way, beautiful flower gardens and plants line the pathways. We found ourselves constantly stopping to take photos of the many beautiful blossoms on display.
The gardens are delightful any time of year. During the Spring, showy Dexter Rhododendrons and flowering trees put on a beautiful display, while summer bursts into color with brilliant annuals and daylilies. Autumn highlights blazing foliage and fall-blooming plants, and winter showcases beautiful heathers, bright berries and evergreens.
Hidden Hollow, a family-friendly area, is a place for exploration of the natural world and learning about caring for the environment, and is always full of children and families having a wonderful time. Children can climb stepping stumps, walk log beams, build forts, experiment with water, and create nature inspired art and music.
As we explored the grounds, we came across a number of whimsical garden gates that caught our attention, all created by local artists.
The highlight of the day for us was a special exhibit called Norman Rockwell, Beyond The Easel, which explained all the painstaking work the famous artist put into creating his beautiful paintings and Saturday Evening Post covers.
Besides a number of original Rockwell paintings, there were sketches and photographs of the models and props that he used to create the finished product. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in that exhibit, but no camera could pay just tribute to Rockwell’s work anyway.
Another huge building, the American Art and Carousel Gallery, houses a beautiful old working carousel and we stopped to watch kids and their parents riding the horses and other animals that have delighted children for over 100 years.
The building held a folk art collection that included a collection of cigar store Indians and other advertising figures.
There were also interesting collections of old weathervanes, Scrimshaw, original oil paintings, and signs used to advertise businesses, including these giant scissors for a tailor shop, and this fellow that hung in front of a book and antique shop.
Besides the regular exhibits, the museum and gardens hold special events all year long, ranging from concerts to landscaping workshops, programs for schoolchildren, classic car shows, and holiday celebrations.
All of that exploring can sure work up an appetite, and the Magnolia Café on the museum grounds serves lunch, light snacks, wine, and ice cream. Visitors can also picnic on the museum grounds.
If you have not visited the Heritage Gardens and Museum yet, be sure to include them on your next trip to New England. You won’t be disappointed.
Located at 67 Grove Street in Sandwich, the museum complex is open daily from mid-April through late October, with special events held year around. Admission to the Heritage Gardens and Museum is $20 for adults, $10 for ages 3 to 17, and free for children ages 2 and under.
The Heritage Gardens and Museum is part of the Blue Star Museums program. This partnership between Blue Star Families, the National Endowment of Arts, and museums across the country is dedicated to enriching the lives of military families through the arts by offering free admission to cultural institutions from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. All active duty military are eligible and may bring up to five immediate family members with them to Heritage.
While buses bring visitors coming to the museum complex, I wouldn’t drive my motorhome down the narrow road to get there. Park your RV at one of the area campgrounds and drive your dinghy or tow vehicle when you visit. For more information on Heritage Gardens and Museum, call (508) 888-3300 or visit their website.
Thought For The Day – Is the “S” or “C” silent in scent?