It has been hard to get out and about – COVID, out of practice, making arrangements not as easy as in the past BUT – I just had an overnight to get me back in the “shunpiking mode.” I had a great time combining two desires – 1) taking the tour of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass, and getting back to OSV – Old Sturbridge Village. I believe I am “out of my funk.” My Cathy and I felt better just getting away for the day, and an overnight really rejuvenates you to “get back to work.” I combined two “day-trips” again into an overnight, close to home, but far away. Worcester, Massachusetts for a PRESS, and Old Sturbridge Village for POTS.
I recently learned that the American Antiquarian Society has tours at 3PM on Wednesdays. Odd time, but I had to see Isaiah Thomas’ printing press. I recently sold a reference book to one of the curators adding interest. Was I amazed to learn that over 40 people work here in a facility devoted to printed material from the US up to 1820 (they need to have it all) but have a cut-off of 1876. I told you I stopped by in February (do revisit this post) and peeked in the windows,
Getting there I backroaded, of course. NH Route 12, becoming MA Route 12 to Ashburnham and Fitchburg; right on 2A; left on 31 towards Princeton to Holden (there is a stretch on 31 with amazing architecture and views to the east); in Holden follow 122A to Worcester. I expect a report back on your explorations along this route. Below is the historic press, constructed in 1747 in London. Thomas (1749-1831) learned as a child to print on this press while apprenticed to Boston printer Zachariah Fowle (1724-1776). When Thomas eventually took over Fowle’s printing business, he also became the owner of this press. I got my first printing press in 1957 when I was eleven – ironically I only own about eleven presses as this time, but nothing this large and historic. I encourage you to learn more of Isaiah Thomas’ work and life.
Above was today’s guide for the tour. The staff takes turns doing the “honors” so each tour could be different. I thought I was going to be the only one on the tour, thinking that would be great, then more folks showed up minutes before the start – 20 in all, the largest group since COVID began. I now will be an advocate for larger groups – there is an advantage. Different folks, different perspectives, and different questions, questions I would not have asked. As a result, insights I may not have otherwise gotten. So, large groups if they fit the area is better. Below is looking down to the reading room. We then passed through stacks, saw the preservation area, and you would not believe the size of the scanners being used to digitize newspapers.
I will visit again, I need to access digital copies of the FARMERS MUSEUM published at Thomas’ satellite press here in Walpole to pull snippets for my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION (having roots back to the FARMERS MUSEUM), and I am adding the society to my list of worthy recipients of donations.
It was then down Main Street heading west. This visit to Worcester I saw more traffic than in my past visits. Main Street passes Clark University that I reported on in February where my great-grandfather, Franz Boas, taught. You pass through a number of ethnic neighborhoods, and ironically this evening I sold two books – one Armenians in Worcester, and the other Swedes in Worcester. I needed to go this route because I found in my files a brochure of the Historic Districts of Charlton, Massachusetts. I have almost 60 years of experience with Charlton, but have not explored it all. In 1963 high school friends and I painted the barn of the Black Angus farm owned by one high school chum’s Dad, and I bought my last Model A Ford there in 2019 – remember there are constant threads in my life.
In a remote area, but close to the Massachusetts Turnpike, I first passed the 1799 Rider Tavern, one of the top ten architecturally significant buildings in Massachusetts.
around the corner is the boyhood home of William T. G. Morton. Morton was the first to discover the properties of ether as an anesthetic and demonstrate its use in operating procedures. Honored as the man “who banished pain from the operating table”.
I then “back roaded” to Southbridge for the SOUTHBRIDGE HOTEL & CONFERENCE CENTER. Although not a B&B or Inn, it was fine, but the hook for me is it is in the original American Optical Company building, the company owned by the Webbs who established Old Sturbridge Village. Industrial and close to Sturbridge it was nice to experience the town. I had dinner at Fins and Tale, in an old building, and had a fantastic special – braised beef, mouth watering. Below is the fantastic old building before being converted (facade still the same) and my dinner.
The second reason for this overnight was a day at OSV. I was the first one “in the door” on June 8, 2021, when OSV opened for its 75th anniversary. I had a great time, and bought some souvenirs made for the occasion at the Miner Grant Store. While deciding on which pottery item to buy, a fellow came up to me and said, “I made those.” Tony is a volunteer potter at OSV, and we have emailed since then. He told me the kiln will be in the process of being loaded for firing on September 10, and I planned to meet him there to see the loading and chat. It was great. Below is the original pottery shop. When we visited before I left, we chatted in the underground pottery area that is so well hidden you would never know it exists.
One of the things Tony shared is their clay comes (since 1940) from the Sheffield Pottery, and he showed me an aerial photo of the spot, and a ground view. On my favorite US Route 7 in Sheffield, MASS, I have been passing by for six decades, only stopping once. On my list to stop next time passing by.
In our emails Tony explained the covering I would see, saying, “Due to all the rain downpours we have been getting we opted to cover the kiln. A dry kiln can reduce our firing time by 20 hours. 32 hours vs 52 hours. Very significant as we would have to staff the firing for the additional hours with another overnight and use at least another 1-1/2 cords of wood. To reach temperature the additional fuel is required to drive out all of the moisture trapped in the brick and hearth of the kiln. The kiln is 16” thick. Unfortunately the modern day tarp is a detriment to the old time appearance to the kiln.”
To the right are Jeff, Tony, and “apprentice” Caitlyn with the protected kiln.
Here is Tony heading in to stack the kiln with product for firing. It will be packed entirely, they had just begun.
below are some “firing” images that Tony sent to me — you now can see what happens, and what I saw during my overnight in 2018 when the Kiln was firing.
UPDATE – this image from the Village’s Facebook page, the Kiln being fired with over 1,000 pieces of pottery inside on September 11, 2022.
Leaving the pottery heading towards the Freeman Farm this is my favorite view looking down to the Bixby House where I spent one of the most enjoyable overnights in my life..
I have been fortunate to develop “friendships” with a couple of the docents/staff at OSV – Susan, George and now Tony. Susan was my docent for my overnight in 2018 – Boarding with the Bixbys – an experience I would sign up for again in a “heart beat.” I entered the Bixby House, and Susan was there. She offered me a chair, and we began visiting, but stopped when visitors entered so she could share the experiences folks like the Bixbys would have.
Susan explained how the women would weave the dried rye into braids that would then be traded at the local general store for other goods. Those braids would later be made into hats as seen on the table. The women would also get leather goods to create shoe uppers. Making shoes in the early 19th century was piece work done at many locations for further assembly. I have talked about this in the past in other posts.
When another group arrived she invited them (and me) into the “guest parlor” where she discussed the serving of tea. Tea leaves would be added to hot water in a cup. The resulting tea liquid would then be poured into the saucer carefully to not include remnants of the leaves. Tea was then drunk from the saucer – and now you know the 19th century tradition.
I heard the carriage outside – it was George. I said bye to Susan (I did go back later to say good bye), and then rode with George on his route and talk through the village and its history. Years ago we learned we knew the same people in Walpole, and his nephew lives close by. Most all of my images of George on my visits are the same.
After lunch at the Tavern I stopped in the Tin Shop where I apprenticed during my overnight and made two tin sconces, now proudly on my walls. And, I visited the “new” cabinet shop.
I have not before shared with you the Town Pound. One of my next “Did You Know That…” history articles in my newspaper will be on Town Pounds.
I wanted also to see the new exhibit on parades based upon the book shown below. The exhibit is in three places through out the village, but from the main visitor center part I have included some interesting panels that you can click on for easier reading – ENJOY.
In May of this year I discovered the Gill Tavern in Massachusetts. It was closed, but I promised myself I would return. Routing myself home once leaving a great day at OSV, and buying books at a few stops, I arrived in little Gill for dinner.
45 minutes from home on super slab I-91, I cannot wait to get back with friends.
Well, I am ready to get out again. I have to review all my notes for trips – and hopefully there will be “no stopping me.” If you have not been:
1-Visit Worcester, Mass, and the American Antiquarian Museum
2-DEFINITELY – visit OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE
2-Plan your trip to have a meal at the Gill Tavern in Gill, MA
ENJOY – luv, RAY