and, I had to be there, and first in line. June 8, 1946, my Dad was still in Germany. My mother was in the Bronx, and at just shy of three months old I was not able to convince her to take me to Sturbridge. But 81 visitors did attend that day, paying a dollar each for admission. Did I ever tell you I love spending time at OSV?
You may enjoy looking at (and I encourage you to look) at this email the Village sent with the early history leading to the opening of this wonderful place. Click on link below –
CELEBRATING 75 YEARS OF MORE THAN A MUSEUM
Not one to take chances I decided to position myself on Monday the 7th. With OSVs lodging at the Old Sturbridge Inn & Reeder Family Lodges still closed, I decided to stay at the Publick House on the original Sturbridge Common. I stayed there over 12 years ago, dined there many times, but booked a room in the original building – 1771. My room is above the front door.
The Publick House faces the Sturbridge Common which was laid out probably by 1738.
I have a “history” with the Common. In 1963, and maybe 1964, I traveled to neighboring Charlton, MA, with high school friends to paint Leland’s Dad’s Black Angus herd’s barn. I traveled back once on my own (sleeping in the barn) and went to an antique show on this Common (notice a budding pattern?). At that time I was already fascinated with early Country Stores, and at the show’s auction did not get the nickel plated curved country store showcase I wanted (think I only had $25 extra – a great deal then), but got a large wooden one. With help, and the top down on the 1960 VW convertible I drove up from Wilton, I loaded the case for the trip home. While loading I was parked in the spot this silver car is in looking through the gazebo. See why I needed to stay here, over 55 years later?
another view of the Sturbridge, Massachusetts, Common looking from the gazebo to the Inn. You can “click” for an almost full screen view.
and, then I had dinner in the Inn’s Tavern – very nice and enjoyable.
But, remember the plan was to be first at OSV for the 75th anniversary of its opening. Up early, pastries and coffee at the Inn’s bakery shop, and a drive around the corner, so to speak. I arrived at 9:10, twenty minutes prior to opening – I WAS THE ONLY ONE THERE, AND FIRST TO ENTER FOR SURE.
About ten minutes later another woman arrived. I jumped up from the mill stone heading near the door. We chatted. I explained that I was a gentleman, should let her ahead of me, BUT, I had to be first in the door for “bragging rights.” She acquised, but in the conversation we talked about the limited edition souvenirs, and our plan was to immediately head to Miner Grant’s Store to buy ours. After that, I headed to the Center Meetinghouse for the “Common Curiosities” tour. Tom was amazing with his historical information. A great memory and a wealth of information from his 38 years at OSV. I later learned he is a lead interpreter that everyone looks up to. Tom, I am ready to volunteer, if only to stuff envelopes. Here is Tom as he began for (sadly) only three of us.
I had some questions, and was thrilled with his answers. I needed to know the original location of the Asa Knight store, and the OSV covered bridge, both from Dummerston, Vermont, a stone’s through from me. Thank you, Tom, I now know where to look, and will post an update here following my discoveries soon to come. To the left of the above image, is the old Country Store, relocated from Dummerston. Did I tell you I have loved old country/general stores since my early teens?
When Tom was done, we headed into the store because he said there were pictures there of the store’s original location. Here is a gallery of those images, and looking at Asa’s house, you can see the similarity of my home at “44” (down to the lantern style and location) and my need to find the location.
and turning around when in the store, there was Susan – docent extraordinaire, who I first met while “Boarding with the Bixbys” and I have enjoyed chatting with on all my return visits. One of the reasons, I am sure, that many folks return to OSV.
UPDATE — 12 JUNE — I FOUND THE LOCATIONS
Today BLUE BELLE and I needed a break so we made a 57 mile circle to Dummerston, Brattleboro, Chesterfield, and home. AND, thank you Tom, with the information you provided I can now share the former locations of Asa Knight’s store and the Dummerston Covered Bridge, both now at OSV. Make sure you compare the store images below with those above. Just south of the triangular Common in Dummerston Center, the south end of the Common has a border of trees. Possibly a century ago a road ran in front of the store to the lower road. Have to find maps to see. But here you are:
above is Asa Knight’s home so you can compare with the images above. Again, just like my home at “44” down to the lamp and lamppost position. Below there is now a garden area behind the picket fence where the store was located.
I shot the above through the tree line, and then turned around to take the below shot north of the Common. That is the Grange hall to the right. I have gone to events there.
I continued west on East West Road and crossed the West Dummerston Covered Bridge and headed south on Route 30. The bridge now at OSV crossed Stickney Brook just below the old Iron Bridge. I parked, looked north for this image of the Iron Bridge, and then south to the “new” Route 30 bridge across the brook.
here is an early (late 1940s?) real photo postcard of the bridge in this location above. Postcard image is probably looking north based upon tree line – image above is looking south
below is an image of the bridge I took in 2017 at the village. There is a great story of how it was tied down and saved during a hurricane and flood, Ride with George for details.
on the east side of the “new” bridge you can look down to Stickney Brook as it enters the West River.
From the maps I saw Old Jelly Mill Falls a short distance to the east. And a short distance it is — and so well hidden those out-of-towners heading up Route 30 have no idea it is there. Carved down to the rocks it is amazing. Many people were enjoying the water and surroundings. All I need is a “date” and a picnic basket and head back. Now I need to learn about the old Jelly Mill. There were some old foundation stones along the banks. AND, after a couple hours search on 14 June I found history of the “Jelly Mill” and will begin a ROADS AND ROUTES page with its history – check back for the link when added here.
Now back to the original post.
Now, another reason I return? To ride with George, of course, on a cart or stage with his horses around the village. George is an unsurpassed raconteur relating village history. And, early on in my visits we learned we knew the same people, and his nephew lives near me and works in town here.
on this tour into the farm area we first stopped and chatted with the potter who told us about this 12 cent jug – utilitarian, but not expensive. And then George explained the piggery under construction. With a piggery, the little ones had a better chance to survive the elements and eventually become a meal.
After riding with and enjoying George’s stories I got off at the Bullard Tavern for lunch. I had a shepherds pie (somewhat traditional in the 19th century) and a Mud Cup desert. Much to my surprise there were worms in my desert. YIKES – but on close examination, an extra treat – “gummy bear” worms. Do click image for a squirmy view.
Finishing my enjoyable and peaceful lunch at a picnic table outside the Tavern in the shade, I strolled the bucolic Common before heading over to the print shop. Below are the Center Meetinghouse, looking across the Common to the Thompson Bank and Miner Grant Store, and to the Salem Towne House.
I got my first printing press in 1957, been fascinated with printing, and have a number of presses and equipment to this day. With hobbies of printing, photography and collecting US Commemorative stamps beginning in my pre-teens, it all led to Ray today – publishing and writing history articles, and life is good. The interpreter in Isiah Thomas’ printing office filled me in on much more than how a press operates since I told him my background. A great time. I learned that this press was among the items first purchased by Wells as his collecting mania began.
I had seen on the OSV website that special commemorative items had been made in a limited number for the 75th anniversary. Limited to 75 of each item. Once entering the grounds I headed right to the Miner Grant Store to purchase my treasures (as did the woman I did not let in front of me). I thought that the miniature punched tin lanterns would be small, but just a tad shorter than the real ones in the museum. And, my wood-fired pottery pitcher was a must have. The plates are not yet ready, they want me to come back for one. I left my purchases there to retrieve when leaving.
Now, limited number of items, you want a low number, if not Number One. The lanterns were not numbered, but the pitchers were. I searched for Number One, but was told that one of the clerks when unpacking them found Number One and scooped it up. But I found Number Three. I have enjoyed chatting with many people, as you have come to learn, and once outside a fellow followed with his purchase. Ends up he was the volunteer potter who made the pitchers while at home. We had fun chatting about lots of things (including spinal stenosis). He told me that as he laid the pitchers out for numbering he was pretty sure mine was the first made, but placed where it got numbered three. Well, makes a good story, I was first in the door, and have great souvenirs. I lit my lantern that evening when home using a tea candle.
Back at the Visitor Center was “Curator’s Pick: A Look into the Institution Archives.” This young lady was sharing some of the great ephemera documenting the early years at the village, including a paper board game.
Almost five hours there (includes my early arrival to be Number One for sure) it was time to head back north. Back roads of course, Route 32 into New Hampshire always enjoyable. I will be back several times this year, and someday hope I can contribute (more than dollars) time in some way. Old Sturbridge Village is a national treasure for all to enjoy. What I really enjoy seeing is youngsters being exposed to history, the early way of life, and as a result possibly develop an infinity for and get involved in history.
RAY HIGHLY RECOMMENDS:
Visit OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE and get involved and contribute in some way