(I love when I have pictures to include!)
This past Friday, I spent my morning at Historic Deerfield! I’ve been told that this was a must-see for over a year now. After given the chance to use my visit as extra credit for HIST 397Z, I made sure to put aside some time to visit.
I didn’t know exactly what to see there, so I started wandering along the one-mile street, admiring the buildings and attempting to get a sense of what it felt like. My favorite part of Historic Deerfield was the fact that it was an open-air living history museum. It serves an actual neighborhood and school community, and the museum buildings just happen to be around there as well.
After getting my admission ticket, I first visited the Stebbins house, a home built in 1799 which represents Federal period architecture. It was also the first brick home in Deerfield. Asa Stebbins, the home’s original owner, was a fairly influential man – in addition to being a wealthy farmer and mill owner, he served on building committees of two other brick buildings in the area. If you visit, be sure to check out the Captain Cook wallpaper in the main entryway – very cool!
Next, I went to the Wapping Schoolhouse, which was a traditional one-room schoolhouse. Wapping served as the district schoolhouse, which meant all the families within a 2-mile radius would support this building. The volunteer here (whose name has slipped my mind) was extremely friendly, explaining how long the building had been there, how else it had been used, and even how such a schoolroom functioned. I even got to try my hand at using a slate board (much easier than chalk) and ink and quill (I wasn’t very good at it.) Hands-on interaction is always the best!
I also took the time to see the Sheldon House, which was built in 1754/7 but interprets the story during the period of 1780 to 1810. During those thirty years, three generations of the Sheldon family occupied the house. They were were a farm family, so I followed up my tour of the home by spending the last few minutes walking along the Charming Footpath, which goes by an active dairy farm while explaining the agriculture of Deerfield. Not only did I get to see some animals (pigs and cows, primarily), but the footpath lived up to its name.
I also loved talking to the volunteers at Deerfield. After working beside many volunteers at NBWM this summer, I know that the people who spend their time working for historic organizations are some of the most knowledgeable people to speak with. I had so many questions and they were happy to answer, even giving me more information than I needed. Volunteers are supposed to help contribute to the great experience museums offer, and these men and women certainly took their job seriously.
Unfortunately, Historic Deerfield doesn’t allow photographs within buildings (something that I completely understand but have always been bothered about while in museums.) However, it wasn’t the inside of the buildings that I wanted to capture the feeling of – it was that one-mile street I kept coming back to. It reminded me of walking tours in historic districts, except better. It had the Western Mass vibe of quiet repose alongside the weight of historic importance I seek to find everywhere. By being an open-air space, I truly got the feeling of living history – that this space is still used and important to the community that uses it.
I didn’t even get to see half of the stuff Historic Deerfield has to see, so I will definitely go back at some point (maybe even later this semester.) But it’s beautiful and wonderful, and I’m so glad I finally took some time to go.