Category: Massachusetts history

Uncovering the Past

The Ware-Hardwick Covered Bridge is one of eight covered bridges in Massachusetts. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wikipedia states that:
At 137 feet, the Ware-Hardwick Covered Bridge is the longest covered bridge in Massachusetts.
Built in 1886, it spans the Ware River at Hardwick and Ware, Massachusetts.
The siding does not fully cover the sides, leaving a strip exposed for light, and extends partway inside each portal.
The bridge notably survived a major flooding event in the 1930s, when the textile mills in Hardwick were destroyed.

Revolutionary Timekeepers

The Willard House and Clock Museum in North Grafton, MA.

From the information board at the site:
The family of clockmakers who lived and worked in this house helped revolutionize timekeeping in America. The Willard family was one of the premiere clockmaking families during and after the American Revolution. The Willards held several patents on clockmaking innovations, and their work made clocks more widely available–while increasing their reliability.
The saltbox, a popular colonial house design, was a frame dwelling with two stories in front and one behind and a roof with a long rear slope.

Simon Willard invented the popular banjo clock, a wall clock with a banjo-shaped case.

“Many Waters”

The Quabbin Reservoir takes its name from the Algonquin word meaning “many waters”.

The Quabbin Reservoir is one of the largest unfiltered water supplies in the United States, providing drinking water for 3 million Massachusetts residents. It covers 39 square miles with 181 miles of shoreline.
“Quabbin” is an Algonquin word meaning “many waters”. The word was used by the Nipmucs, who first inhabited this area of Massachusetts. Built between 1930 and 1939, the reservoir is the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts. It is a primary water supply for Boston, 65 miles to the east.
At the Enfield Lookout, New Hampshire’s Mt. Monadnock can be seen in the distance.
More than 50 access gates surround Quabbin, giving visitors access to the over 200 miles of forest roads throughout the watershed.

A 1685 Garrison House

Standing for over 300 years, this sturdy house provides a glimpse into an important architectural style of Early America.

The Houghton Sprague Garrison House, Harvard, MA
“Garrisons, or fortified houses, were built in almost all New England towns.…Like an ordinary house in plan and appearance, garrisons were used in times of peace as one-family dwellings but were strongly built and capable of protecting a number of families in times of danger, like the American Revolution.” –The History of Garrison Colonials, by Ray Wiese

A Century Farm

Central Massachusetts boasts well over forty apple orchards. Sagatabscot is among the oldest.

Sagatabscot Orchards in Sterling, MA was established in the 1740s. This historic farm has been owned by only two families; the present family has been operating it since 1912.
A self-serve stand offers many apple varieties, including heirloom, as well as cider.
The antique cider press has been preserved in the farm barn along with other historical relics. Note the World War I helmet, worn by an ancestor of the present owner.
In the Algonquin Indian language sagatabscot means “place of the hard rock”.
Since the 1700’s the owners have built numerous additions to the original buildings on the rocky hillside.
The farmhouse is painted in the original 1700s color.
The “six over six” windows and side entry are appealing details for colonial architecture enthusiasts.
Lucky and Lucky, the chickens, were named as a consequence of being the last chickens left after a fox found the hen house.
The barn is a treasure trove of antique farm implements, historical items and family lore.
Cart wheels and traditional Ojibwa Indian snowshoes are displayed in the barn rafters.
This bobsled was used to deliver milk when roads were impassable in the winter.
The present owner created this replica of the barn for his young daughters.
Generations of cousins have gathered at the farm for family festivities.
Small rooms carved out from the larger structure include historical items and family heirlooms.

A Colonial Style Summer

A walk through the small historic district of Holden, MA allows time to view many details of colonial architecture and landscaping.

This home in the historic district of Holden, MA, displays the simple beauty of early American design and decoration. Lilies, phlox and daisies, traditional New England perennials, become the “front lawn”. No mowing needed.
The rest of the “lawn” is dominated by common ferns. Look closely to the left of the door. A golden colored “guard” is on duty there.
Door guards such as this one have been popular in China for centuries. This might be a representation of a lion, dragon or dog. Although I was unable to find direct links from this style of ceramics to early America, The Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum notes that: In 1741, ships belonging to the British, Danish, French, and Swedish brought a total of 1,200,000 pieces of Chinese porcelain into the European ports. A good portion of those pieces ended up in the fine homes of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. I welcome comments if you have expertise in this area!
A recent trend in primitive decorating is the use of gourds. Here, eye-catching Italian gourds (or possibly small snake gourds) hang on the side door underneath panes of traditional bull’s eye glass. The five-pointed star atop the door was a symbol of good luck in colonial America. A side lantern in colonial style utilizes faux candles.
The smaller golden guard of the side door sits next to a pot of basil. Basil was brought to the New World in the 1620s. Along with flavoring food, it was used as a strewing herb. Additionally, the leaves were dried for use in snuff to relieve headaches and colds.
Whitewashed picket fences were popular in colonial days. These fences were expensive and harder to maintain than plain wooden fences, so they became a symbol of prosperity.
This rooster weather vane, with its tail perfectly shaped to catch the wind, stands proudly atop the house. Weather vanes were popular in colonial times, but were first used centuries before this era.

The Queen of Shrubs

The easy-to-grow and fragrant lilac was brought from Europe to New England by the early colonists. Today this “Queen of Shrubs” is ubiquitous in Massachusetts.

Better Homes and Gardens notes that:

“Lilacs are known for their hardy nature and long lives—many lilac shrubs live to be more than 100 years old. Because of their life span, they often survive longer than the home of the gardener that planted them. So, if you’re on a country road and see a few seemingly-random lilac bushes, there was most likely a house or farm there in the last century.”

Historic Yankee Barn Design

Information posted at Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary’s Crocker Barn states:

“Built in 1925 by the Crocker family, this barn formerly housed a herd of prize-winning Milking Shorthorn cattle. It was designed by farm manager Paul Beardsley and was state-of-the-art for its time, featuring a ground floor milking parlor, a trussed, gambrel roof that provided vast interior space to pile loose hay (hay balers were not yet invented), and an overhead tramway system to easily move manure to a separate barn for storage. No longer present, but visible in the historic photo notice the twin silos, the four rooftop ventilators, the additional hay wagon ramp, and the small milk house in the foreground.

Currently, the Cow Barn provides storage for the materials, tools and equipment needed for sanctuary habitat management, and to maintain our trail system, buildings and grounds. Planning is underway to fundraise for renovations that would allow us to welcome visitors and program participants into this wonderful and historic space.”

The Crocker Barn, Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary, Princeton, MA.

Information posted at Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary’s Crocker Barn states:
“Built in 1925 by the Crocker family, this barn formerly housed a herd of prize-winning Milking Shorthorn cattle. It was designed by farm manager Paul Beardsley and was state-of-the-art for its time, featuring a ground floor milking parlor, a trussed, gambrel roof that provided vast interior space to pile loose hay (hay balers were not yet invented), and an overhead tramway system to easily move manure to a separate barn for storage. No longer present, but visible in the historic photo notice the twin silos, the four rooftop ventilators, the additional hay wagon ramp, and the small milk house in the foreground.
Currently, the Cow Barn provides storage for the materials, tools and equipment needed for sanctuary habitat management, and to maintain our trail system, buildings and grounds. Planning is underway to fundraise for renovations that would allow us to welcome visitors and program participants into this wonderful and historic space.”
The barn circa 1925.
Doors to a former hay wagon ramp.
Attention to detail is shown on this simple but effective shingle design.
The cow barn is massive compared to the nearby sheep barn.
Fieldstone foundations are featured on both barns.
A section of the outsized doors, commonly found on New England barns.
The barn overlooks a meadow that leads down to wetlands.

This side of the barn will soon feature an all-persons viewing deck.

A Red Barn For All

This barn dating back to the 1800s is a Holden, MA landmark. The structure, with almost eight surrounding acres and a pond, was donated to the town in 2000. Now maintained by the non-profit organization, The Friends of the Red Barn, it is a center that helps people understand New England’s agricultural past while encouraging the appreciation of nature.

Six gardens are maintained on the plot by member/volunteers, and markers around the site educate visitors about the farm’s history. Farm Days offer a wide variety of events to experience farm life close up.

Fruitlands

The Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA is situated on Prospect Hill, the site where Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane founded a short-lived experimental utopian community in 1843. The view from the hill is still beautiful today.

The Fruitlands Museum relates that:

“Fruitlands has been host to some of the most famous people in America. Thoreau walked Prospect Hill and admired its view; Ralph Waldo Emerson, a supporter of Alcott’s, visited here; and Louisa May (then 10) would relate her experiences at Fruitlands in her books Transcendental Wild Oats and Little Women.”