More Shelburne Museum
Westport, NY - Events of Thursday, July24, 2013
After our break, we continued our tour of the Shelburne Museum with a stop at the Stencil House. Named for the decorative stenciling in the entry hall, parlor and dining room, this house was built about 1804 in Columbus, NY.
About 90% of the stenciling in the parlor is original and dates back to the 1820s or 1830s.
When the museum acquired the house, approximately 2/3 of the stenciling in the dining room was missing. The museum attempted to preserve what was left by using an animal glue-based primer. Unfortunately, it didn't work and the primer actually pulled much of the remaining stencil paint from the walls by the 1980s. In 2000, the museum decided to repaint the entire dining room and re-apply the stencils. What remained of the original stencils was painstakingly traced, photographed and then reproduced in the original colors.
The Stencil House is filled with a mix of both high-style and everyday furniture from the 1800s. The next photo shows the kitchen. The dining room is to the left, and the parlor is through the door to the right of the fireplace.
From the Stencil House, we went to the general store. The building, which was originally built as the post office for the town of Shelburne in 1840, was moved intact to the museum in 1952. An apothecary shop was added to the right side of the general store in 1959. Early doctor and dental equipment and instruments are displayed upstairs. Much of the early medical procedures can best be described as grim. We're so blessed to have modern medicine.
The Vermont House Gallery, shown below, is used to house changing exhibits. Furniture from the 1700s and 1800s was on display inside when we were there.
We wanted to stop by the blacksmith shop because its always fun to watch the sparks fly if there is a blacksmith demonstration going on. On the way, we passed a meeting house that was built in 1840 in Charlotte, VT by a Methodist congregation. In New England, churches also provided space for community meetings and other gatherings, thus the name meeting house.
The one-room, brick blacksmith shop was built around 1800 in Shelburne near the railroad. There were two blacksmiths and a helper who were demonstrating making decorative hooks.
A later, wood-frame addition to the shop featured a display of wagon wheel-making tools and equipment.
We came next to the horseshoe barn. Built in 1949, it is a U-shaped barn modeled after a unique dairy barn located in Georgia, VT. It is built from the hand-hewn beams from 12 different Vermont barns and stones from two grist mills.
The barn houses more carriages, wagons and sleighs. The annex behind the horseshoe barn was built on site in 1957 and houses farm, trade and utility wagons like the Conestoga wagon shown below. The wagon was built in 1837 and was used to haul freight between Lancaster and Philadelphia, PA.
Conestoga wagons were developed by the Pennsylvania Germans for the express purpose of hauling freight. Their curved bottoms kept loads centered so they didn't shift when traversing rough roads or when crossing streams. Conestoga wagons were pulled by draft horses or oxen and could haul 5 to 8 tons. Conestoga wagons aren't to be confused with the covered wagons that carried pioneers west. Those were mostly ordinary farm wagons fitted with canvas covers and were known as "prairie schooners."
Another interesting vehicle in the annex was a school bus sleigh from around 1910 that was found in northern Vermont. It has rows of benches down each side and a small wood stove inside to keep the children warm on their journey.
The Dutton House was built in 1782 by Salmon Dutton in Cavendish, VT. In addition to being a dwelling, it was also served as an inn, a tavern and as a facility for several other commercial enterprises.
An interesting piece on display in the Dutton House was the adult invalid cradle. It enabled an invalid to be with the rest of the family and to be part of daily activities. Its high sides would keep its occupant from falling out, and its rocking motion would be soothing.
As we continued on our way around the museum grounds, we stopped for a photo op at the 1890 jail from Castleton, VT. Castleton is in the slate quarry district of Vermont, so the exterior of the jail is constructed from slate. It weighs 50 tons and was moved to the museum intact in 1953.
The 1835 brick farmhouse at the right of the photo below is the only building that was original to the museum site. The farmhouse and the wood addition are used to display Electra Webb's extensive collection of decorative arts including ceramics, glass, pewter, scrimshaw, miniatures, toys and dolls.
As we said, the farmhouse and addition contain an eclectic display of items, among which is a series of miniatures handcrafted by Helen Bruce. The miniature scenes were purchased and commissioned by Electra in the 1940s and 1950s.
An old stagecoach inn c.1787 from Charlotte, VT contains collections of weathervanes, folk art sculptures, trade signs, decoys, whirligigs and ship carvings.
The last stop on our museum tour was a rare, two lane covered bridge. Built in 1845 in Cambridge, VT, the bridge was dismantled and moved to the museum in 1949. There is also a separate foot path to the left.
We spent about 4 hours at Shelburne Museum walking its 46 acres. Even with splitting the story about the museum into two separate posts, there still are several more buildings and many additional types of collectables we don't have room to show.
The museum is listed as a AAA gem (which is what they call their "must-sees"), and Margery liked it a lot. It is not an historic village with buildings restored and decorated accurately to the period, but rather old buildings holding various types of collections that may or may not represent the period of the building. For that reason, Paul was a little less enamored with the museum, but he still found the Shelburne Museum to be interesting and well worth the time.
It was a long day, we were tired and it was getting late; but we had one more stop to make while we were on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain. Stay tuned.