Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Old Sturbridge Village

Bert Gildart: With a few quick pulls on a handle, the blacksmith filled the bellows with air which was in turn directed at smoldering embers in an old fashion hearth. Then the young bearded man inserted a piece of metal and heated it until it glowed red. He then removed the metal from the fire and began pounding it until it assumed a predetermined shape, which at times was a horseshoe, other times an implement of some type.

The setting was a scene from Sturbridge Village, a village recreated to preserve and celebrate a way of life which existed in the mid 1800s in Massachusetts.

The plan was conceived by members of the Wells family, who purchased in 1936 an old farm belong to the Wight family. It was their intention to create a historical museum in which to display their collections of antiques and to portray a way of life that once existed in New England.

The village was a made-for-us opportunity, as it provided us a chance to learn about the history of this part of the country and do so with our grandchildren, Cassidy, Griff and Piper and their parents, Alun and Karen Polga. Cassidy and Griffin immediately recognized the opportunities and climbed aboard the stand from which they then poke their faces, instantly transforming themselves into soldier and drummer.

Opportunities to immerse yourself in our historic past are fast fading fast from our country, and sadly, Old Sturbridge Village may be struggling to stay out of the red, for apparently the majority of Americans aren’t all that interested in history, preferring instead to visit theme parks (carousel rides, water slides, etc.) , rather than to visit parks interpreting our national heritage. That is a sad commentary, as the village provides excitement for people of all ages—and a golden opportunity to learn. For me personally, the village offered interesting photographic settings, filled with lighting opportunities that proved artful.

Old Sturbridge Village is set along the Quinebaug River and sprawls over about a 100 acres of land. Building were purchased or otherwise obtained from various areas of the state and then brought to the old David Wight farm. Throughout Old Sturbridge Village paid interpreters take you back in history. Trails took us to a number of places to include wallows for pigs, a cotton mill, an old Grist Mill and a tin shop.

For me, the tin shop provided unique photo opportunities because the light was so soft, lacking the type of contrast that would have completely washed out detail inherent in the bright tin and the dark walls.

What’s more the interpreter was engaged in the making of a number of objects which were used in the 1800s, such as plates, tin cups, and washing bowls. Virtually all of these objects can be purchased at one of the local shops.

Of course, the most imposing structures were the old Salem Towne House, the old Fenno House and the Center Meetinghouse, with its skyward pointing steeple.

This latter structure served a dual purpose, that of a center of spiritual power and as a symbol of town authority. This structure dates back to 1790, and represents a time of religious revival, a time when residents attended lengthy Sunday morning and afternoon services. Interestingly, not far away were posted the various punishments imposed on those who strayed far from the fold.

Punishments included branding and dunking, in which a person was strapped into a chair affixed with long pole which rotated from its fulcrum up—and down—and then into the river, where they were held until their breath ran out, and sometimes, possibly, beyond the air that a person had inhaled. Times were harsh then, but on the frontier, apparently harsh conditions were needed to control those who strayed to far from the fold.

Throughout the day, demonstrations were held, and these included shooting demonstrations as well as an attempt to launch a hot-air balloon in front of the old Salem House.

Because the wind was blowing so hard, the demonstration was not particularly successful, but it did provide the opportunity to study the old home, which was built, according to the Old Sturbridge Visitor’s guide, in accordance with the principles provided by the 1792 American edition of William Pain’s Practical Builder.

We spent the entire afternoon on the grounds, and concluded as we sauntered along in an old horse-drawn wagon, that for us, at least, this was a wonderful way in which to not only have fun, but to learn much about life the way that it once existed in much more puritanical times.

2 Responses to “Old Sturbridge Village”

  1. Karen Says:

    We had so much fun with you! The kids have not stopped talking about it, and now they believe they are “famous” because they are on your website. I will let them believe. Stay safe and we hope to see you soon!

  2. Juneteenth – Celebrating Freedom From Slavery at Old Sturbridge Village | Bert Gildart: Writer and Photographer Says:

    [...] one of the highlights of our entire 9-month trip (we left Montana in October) has been to visit Old Sturbridge Village, something I’ve reported on several times before.  Justifiably, the village claims it is a [...]