Last updated: 07:00 PM ET, Mon June 22 2015

Old Sturbridge Village: A Journey Back to the Industrial Revolution

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | June 22, 2015

Old Sturbridge Village: A Journey Back to the Industrial Revolution

Photos courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village.

In 1946, brothers Albert B. and J.Cheney Wells brought together their collection of traditional New England tools, utensils, furniture, glassware, and clocks from the early 1800s and created what would eventually become one of America’s major museums.  The Wells brothers were the son’s of American Optical Company’s founder, George Washington Wells, who had set up shop in nearby Southbridge, Massachusetts.  The family would eventually display the artifacts within a working village, which survives to this day as Old Sturbridge Village.

This wasn’t a new concept at the time.  During the 1920s and 1930s, other industrialists were creating their own interactive museums including John D. Rockefeller Jr. (Colonial Williamsburg), Henry Ford (Greenfield Village), and Henry Francis DuPont (Winterthur).

Old Sturbridge Village takes “working village” seriously.  They are staffed with working interpreters -- clothed in 1830 period attire, doing actual work on the farm and in the shops, and extremely well versed on the era for knowledge for the guests.  They shoe all of their horses and forge all of their farm tools in the BlackSmith’s Shop, and guests can even buy goods made on the farm and in the village in the gift shop.

There are over 40 original buildings on the property where guests can interact with the interpreters, explore the grounds and edifices and partake in activities.  There are three main areas on the property: The Common, where you will find buildings like the Friends Meeting House, where Quakers first met; The Mill Neighborhood, where there are three working mills, and The Countryside, where you will find the shops and covered bridge.

There are plenty of traditional exhibits including displays on glass, firearms and even beekeeping.  One of the most peaceful places to come and you don’t even have to purchase a ticket to visit is the herb garden.  They have over 400 varieties of plants commonly associates with the area and the time period. 

The village has hands-on crafts and plenty for the kids to do.  They fire off muskets occasionally throughout the day and the kids come running when they do.   There are two dining options onsite and the village runs the Old Sturbridge Inn and Reeder Family Lodges, with proceeds from the eateries benefitting the museum.

Old Sturbridge Village is a non-profit organization.  There are many ways that you can support the museum, but the best way is to come and visit.  Allow yourself at least four hours to see the whole area, but keep in mind that if you are at all intrigued by history you might find yourself spending much more time speaking with the interpretive actors. 

The museum is open rain or shine and operates a reduced schedule during the winter.  There are constantly special events going on during the year so be sure to check their events schedule before you plan your trip so you don’t miss a big day.

The dawn of the industrial revolution in New England is embraced at Old Sturbridge Village.  Go experience this period in history for the first time in person and spend some quality learning time with the whole family.  Who knew history could be so fun?

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