Sturbridge Day Trip

The Publick House in Sturbridge MA

The Publick House in Sturbridge MA

On Tuesday, my parents and I celebrated my birthday with a day trip to Sturbridge MA.  It couldn’t have been a better day.

Sturbridge is just an hour from Cambridge and its proximity makes Sturbridge an excellent weekend or day trip destination.  Head out the Mass Pike to Exit 9 and you’re there.

Our day was spent antiquing with lunch at one of our all-time favorite restaurants, the Publick House.

Sturbridge is an antique collector’s dream.  Continue down Route 20 and you’ll come to Brimfield, home three times each year to the famous antique flea market.  But year round you’ll find plenty of places to shop for antiques in the stores that line Route 20. 

You’ll also find a number of home furnishing stores and a variety of gift shops and boutiques.  It’s shopping heaven – primarily of the independent New England variety.  Even the chains, like  Country Curtains and Yankee Candle are New England born.

Our day started at the antiques group shop, The Fairgrounds Antique Center.  It’s one of the first places you come to when you get off the Mass Pike and take the Route 20 exit towards Sturbridge / Brimfield.  Years ago I sold antiques in a booth at The Fairgrounds and it’s still one of my favorite shops.  Fortunately, it’s next to a McDonald’s so my dad was able to have a cup of coffee and read the paper while my mother and I shopped.

We planned to visit the Old Sturbridge Village Gift Shop and Bookstore next.  Old Sturbridge Village is probably the biggest draw in Sturbridge and you can easily spend the entire day there.  The bookstore and gift shop is absolutely worth a stop even if you don’t go through the museum grounds. Sadly, it turned out that at this time of the year, OSV is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Old Sturbridge Village is a magical place.  It’s a recreation of a New England village in the early 1800s with a working farm, a school house, church, mills, and much more – more than 50 period buildings in all – set on over 200 acres.  Interpreters in costume work throughout the village.  My favorite times there have always been when visitor attendance is low – the better to feel transported to a time two hundred years ago.  I’m hoping to head back the next weekday we get unseasonably warm temperatures.

With all that shopping and browsing we had worked up an appetite and headed to the Publick House for lunch.  The Publick House, built in 1771, is an inn and restaurant. The restaurant and tavern serve classic, delicious New England-style food.  Over the years, we’ve visited many times, often for holiday meals at Christmas or Easter.  On Tuesday, we had lunch in the tavern for the first time.  The Publick House’s dining rooms are lovely, but with its golden painted paneled walls, wood burning fireplace, and shelves filled with antique crocks, the pub has more atmosphere than most restaurants you’ll find nowadays.

Thus fortified, we were ready for phase II of our antiquing expedition.  Sturbridge Antique Shops is on the other side of the Pike, heading down Route 20 towards Charlton.  It will be on your left and if you hit Wal-Mart (ugh! – when did that happen?) you’ve gone too far.  This group shop is huge – much larger than it looks from the street.  It has two full floors of booths and cases and we found plenty of treasures.  Happily, there was a sale at the shop – the winter sale runs through February 29th – and most of our finds were bought at a discount of 10 – 30%.

Sturbridge is an excellent day trip destination and worthy of a weekend or more.  There are plenty of motels (and rooms at the inn at the Publick House) if you want to stay overnight.  You could easily fill several days with shopping and Old Sturbridge Village.

If you want to add miles of antique flea market browsing to the mix, the next Brimfield Flea Markets are scheduled for May 6 – 12, July 8 -14, and September 2 – 8, 2012.  See you there!

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The Old Manse – Concord MA – House Museum Monday

The Old Manse in Concord MA

The Old Manse in Concord MA

The Old Manse – Concord MA – House Musuem Monday   The Old Manse has always been one of my favorite house museums. 

History of the Old Manse

Built in 1770 by the Reverend William Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather, the Emerson family watched the battle at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775.

After Reverend Emerson died later that year, his widow married the Reverend Ezra Ripley and the family remained at the Old Manse.

Ralph Waldo Emerson lived at the house for a time and wrote his Transcendentalist work “Nature” here.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family rented the house from the Ripleys for three years, moving in shortly after their marriage in 1842. I had always remembered the writings they carved into the glass window panes with Sophia Hawthorne’s diamond ring.  But I was really struck during the tour by the liberties they took with the house as tenants who failed to pay rent for much of their stay.  Not your model tenants for sure!  But how amazing is it that the inscriptions are still there?

That’s one of the real treats when you visit the house – it is largely intact with the furnishings and possessions that were in the house in 1800s. You’re able to see the house very much as it looked when Bronson Alcott, Margaret Fuller and Henry David Thoreau visited.  Fortunately the house had remained in the Ripley family until 1939 when it was bought by the Trustees of Reservations who today maintain it as a house museum open to the public.

Visiting The Old Manse – Concord MA

The Old Manse is open year round. From mid-April through October the Old Manse is open daily. Weather permitting, the house is open Thursday through Sunday the rest of the year.  Check the Trustees of Reservations website  for more information.

The Old Manse is located at 269 Monument St, Concord, MA 01742.  The phone number is 978-369-3909.

More House Museum Mondays

General Artemas Ward House

Count Rumford House in Woburn


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Battle Road Open House 2010

Daniel Chester French Minute Man Statue in Concord

Daniel Chester French Minute Man Statue in Concord

Battle Road Open House 2010  On Saturday, September 18, 2010 the Minute Man National Park held a day-long open house.  Battle Road Open House and Historic Trades Day provided a rare opportunity to visit almost a dozen Colonial-era houses, most of which are typically not open to the public.  It also was a perfect day for kids with re-enactors demonstrating crafts and trades including blacksmithing, carving, rope making and more.  And it was my chance to be a tourist in my own backyard.

This was the second Battle Road Open House day. Let’s hope they’ll make it an annual event.

The open house day was an old house enthusiast’s dream –  a chance to see and compare so many houses of the same period. 

Since I grew up in Concord during the years that the Park Service was acquiring much of the land and houses that make up the park I had some misgivings too.  It wasn’t easy for home and business owners to have no say in the matter when the park  was acquiring properties.  But now, when open land is so often threatened by development, its’s wonderful to see the fields that line the Battle Road preserved.  If we could just do something about the overhead wires – and the airport!

But I gulped when I realized that the parking area near Meriam’s Corner was the site of the former Willow Pond Kitchen.  I worked at the Willow Pond for years – a time when the owner, Peter Sowkow, was battling with the NPS to keep the Kitchen open.  It was a sad day when the restaurant closed. 

One of the Park Rangers at the Meriam House showed me a vintage photo of the Willow Pond Kitchen that they keep in the office.  It predates the time when I discovered the Willow Pond but so little changed there over the years it looked very familiar.  The image is included in the slide show below.

I managed to see all but the two houses that are open regularly during the year, the Hartwell Tavern and the Wayside.  Here’s the rest of the Battle Road Open House tour:

Jacob Whittemore Housein Lexington  was built in the early 1700s and extensively renovated in the 1780s.  On April 19, 1775 seven members of the Whittemore family fled the house as the battle drew near.

Captain William Smith House in Lincoln   Captain Smith was commanding officer of the Lincoln Minute Men.  He was also Abigail Adams’ brother and “Abigail Adams” greeted us at the door.  The house was built in 1692 but restored by the Park Service to its appearance at the time of the Revolution.

Noah Brooks Tavern was built in 1798 on land that had been in the Brooks family since 1656. Though it postdates the Battle the NPS has kept the house because it is one of several owned by the Brooks family who owned adjacent farms.  This spot became know as Brooks Village. The tavern was a popular gathering spot and remained in business until the 1850s.  For part of the day Scottish Highland Cattle grazed in the fields outside the house.

Joshua Brooks House next door was also built just after the Revolution in 1779.  The family ran a slaughterhouse and tannery across the street. At the time of the Revolution Joshua and his family lived in an earlier house on this site. Their son Joshua was a Minute Man.

The Job Brooks House across the street dates from 1740.  Job Brooks was a farmer and a currier at the Brooks Tannery. Today the National Park Service uses the house to store the Park’s archival collections. There was an amazing sampling of artifacts found around the Park on exhibit in the house on Saturday.

Samuel Brooks House  Parts of this house date to the 1690s.  For 300 years, until the NPS purchased the house in 1963, all of the owners of the house were related in some way to the Brooks family.  Outside the house, in the field out back. a Concord blacksmith demonstrated his craft.

Battle Road Slide Show

Meriam House in Concord  Meriam’s Corner was an important site on April 19, 1775.  Here the Colonists lay in wait for the British soldiers and shots were fired. Two British soldiers died. The Meriam house, built in 1705, sits back from the road – a classic New England setting.  It is one of the houses that is open on occasion during the year.

Barrett’s Farm  On the other side of Concord, some two miles from the Old North Bridge, is the house of Colonel James Barrett.  The British searched Barret’s house on April 19th but the artillery and ammunition they hoped to find had already been moved.  The Barretts lived in the house for its first 200 years and then the McGrath family lived here for the next 100. 

Today the Colonel Barrett house  is in the midst of an extensive restoration after Save Our Heritage acquired it. Legislation has extended the Park Service’s boundaries to include the area around the farm. The open house day provided a fascinating look at a restoration in process.

Buttrick House   It was Major John Buttrick who gave the first order to fire on the British. His house is close to the Old North Bridge.  The two minute men killed at the bridge were brought to the house.   

The Buttrick House was my last stop on the Battle Road Open House tour.  It was closing time and the ladies were putting away the 18th century style dresses they had on display. 

I took the trail down to the Old North Bridge and walked to the Old Manse.  The house is maintained by the Trustees of the Reservation and I managed to catch the last tour.  Afterwards, our guide encouraged us to pick some Concord grapes from the old vine aside the house – a marvelous end to a busy day.

More House Museum Monday Posts

Emerson House

General Artemas Ward House

Count Rumford House


 The Battle Road Open House in Minute Man National Historic Park included houses in Lincoln, Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.

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Battle Road House Tour – Minute Man National Park

Old North Bridge Concord Mass

Old North Bridge Concord Mass

Battle Road House Tour – Minute Man National Park  Are you a fan of house tours? Do you like to visit historic house museums?

Tomorrow, Saturday, September 18. 2010, the National Park Service is holding a house tour of historic houses in Minuteman National Park in Concord and Lexington.

Several houses, including some that are usually not open to the public, will be open. There will also be demonstrations of a variety of colonial crafts and trades including spinning, weaving, a tailor, a blacksmith and a cooper.

Restored colonial era houses open to the public include:

  • Meriam House
  • Sam Brooks House
  • Noah Brooks Tavern
  • Job Brooks House
  • Captain William Smith House
  • Jacob Whittemore House

Admission is free.  Hours are 10 am to 4 pm.

Tour info can be picked up a the North Bridge Visitor Center off Monument Street on Liberty Street in Concord or at the Minute Man Visitor Center, 250 North Great Road (Route 2A) in Lincoln, MA.

The Battle Road House Tour is scheduled for Saturday, September 18, 2010 from 10 am to 4 pm.

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General Artemas Ward House Museum

General Artemas Ward House Museum

General Artemas Ward House Museum

General Artemas Ward House Musueum   The General Artemas Ward House Museum is in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts but has more than one connection to Cambridge.

Artemas Ward was the General and commander-in-chief of the colony’s militia during the occupation of Cambridge that began shortly after the Battle of Lexington and Concord. By June he was named a Major General and second in command to George Washington who arrived in Cambridge on July 3, 1775.

Ward’s political service included serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress and serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1779 to 1785. He served as Speaker of the Massachusetts House in 1785 and was later twice elected to the United States Congress.

The house had been built by Ward’s father in 1727 and was home to generations of the Ward family.  For almost two hundred years the property was a working farm and the enormous barn is one of the largest in New England.

In 1925 a wealthy Ward descendant donated the farm to Harvard University. Harvard maintains the house today as a museum.

The Artemas Ward House is a treat – filled with family furnishings and memorabilia and in largely unaltered condition. It’s wonderful to see what deep pockets can do – Harvard, unlike many small historical societies, has the money to maintain a property of this age and size in tip top condition.

The General Artemas Ward House Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday until late November. Check the website for more information about hours.

Admission is free – you can’t beat that! 

More House Museum Mondays

 Count Rumford House

 Emerson House Museum


The General Artemas Ward House Museum is located at 786 Main Street, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts 

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Count Rumford House In Woburn

Count Rumford House - Birthplace and Museum

Count Rumford House - Birthplace and Museum

Count Rumford House in Woburn   Driving by the red Colonial on North Street in Woburn I couldn’t help but notice the large sign on the house’s wood shingled roof – “Count Rumford Birthplace“.

Count Rumford House Museum

Like many, I knew of Count Rumford from the Rumford fireplace but had no idea he had local connections. Turns out there’s lots more to know.

Benjamin Thompson, who was to become Count Rumford, was born here at 90 Elm Street in Woburn, his grandfather’s house, in 1753.  The house is a National Historic Landmark  and is owned and maintained by the Rumford Historical Association.

This isn’t a house museum per se though old house enthusiasts will appreciate seeing the well preserved Colonial which dates from about 1714.  The Rumford Historical Association was formed in 1877 in an effort to save and maintain the house. That’s very early for a historic preservation effort and a testament to Rumford’s influence and reputation.

Benjamin Thompson must have been a very charismatic man as well as a brilliant one.  His list of accomplishments is long and many of his successes came at a very young age.   A Loyalist, he moved to England in 1776.  There he prospered –  serving in the military, gaining reknown for his scientific work, and receiving several honors – he was knighted in 1781 and became a Count of the Holy Roman Empire in 1792.

The Count Rumford House is a treasure trove of information about the colorful Count Rumford and related memorabilia.  There are a number of models of Rumford’s scientific inventions and the house is a fun visit for kids who appreciate science or history. You’ll also get an interesting overview of Woburn history during the tour. 

Count Rumford Museum and Birthplace is usually open from 1 to 4:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a good idea to call ahead and confirm. The phone number is 781-933-4976.   Admission is free but donations are welcomed.

More House Museum Mondays

Emerson House in Concord


Count Rumford House is located at 90 Elm Street, Woburn, MA  01801

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Emerson House Museum In Concord

Ralph Waldo Emerson House Museum in Concord

Ralph Waldo Emerson House Museum in Concord

Emerson House Museum In Concord   What’s a house enthusiast / real estate agent do in her spare time? Visit house museums of course.  I’ve always loved them – the antiques, the literary connections, the “step back in time” sensation that can flicker through your mind. Massachusetts has plenty of house museums and I’m going to highlight one each week.

Emerson House Museum In Concord  

Though the lines are longer at the Old Manse or the Orchard House, the Emerson House in Concord is not to be missed. Take a drive out to Concord – twenty minutes from Cambridge and 150 years back in time.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, noted Transcendentalist, philosopher and author, bought the house for his family in 1835.  Emerson lived here until his death in 1882 and family members lived in the house for many years thereafter. 

The house is owned by Emerson’s descendants and is much the same as it was when the Emerson family lived here.  Unlike many house museums, furnished with period pieces in an attempt to recreate the feel of an earlier time, at the Emerson House you are able to see the house very much as it was when the family lived here and entertained so many whose names we still know well.

Be sure to wander around the expansive yard after your tour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson House museum is open Thursday to Sunday from mid-April through October.

For hours and admission charges check the Emerson House website.

Emerson House Museum is at 28 Concord Turnpike, Concord, Mass. across from the Concord Museum

Categories: Area Info
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