Even during the dreariest spring, New England holds a wealth of places to visit for history lovers. There are battlefields for the war buffs, museums for the art lovers, cemeteries for the genealogists, academic campuses for aficionados of fine architecture and historic rummage sales for the collectors.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield, Conn., will hold its bi-annual Tags & Treasures Sale, organized by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in The State of Connecticut. For sale will be hundreds of household items, including furniture, vintage pieces, and historic estate items from some of Connecticut’s oldest families. The sale runs from 9-4 on Saturday and from 10-4 Sunday, $5 adult single-day admission, children $3.
Visit New Hampshire’s quiet corner for a pop-up exhibit of historic games from private collections at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture. In the spirit of fun, the Monadnock Center is also offering a Monadnock Trivia game. It’s at 19 Grove St. in the heart of downtown Peterborough, N.H., a pretty town with plenty of shops and restaurants.
Sedgwick Family Iconography
Let Edie Sedgwick be your guide to places to visit in New England this weekend. She was Andy Warhol’s first superstar and the scion of an aristocratic New England family that left its iconography all over the region.
Head to Boston and check out Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ memorial to the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, led by Edie’s great-great-uncle, Robert Gould Shaw. It’s on the corner of the Common across from the Statehouse. Next door in the Public Garden is a sculpture by Edie’s cousin (and teacher) Lily Saarinan, called the Bagheera Fountain. Then visit the Museum of Fine Arts to view a Gilbert Stuart portrait of Edie’s ancestor, Theodore Sedgwick.
If it’s gravesites you’re into, Theodore Sedgwick is buried at the center of the Sedgwick Pie at the Stockbridge Cemetery on Main Street in Stockbridge, Mass. Also buried in the Sedgwick Pie is Elizabeth Freeman, the Sedgwick family servant who won her freedom from slavery in a lawsuit (with help from Theodore). Norman Rockwell is also buried in the Stockbridge Cemetery. Coincidentally, there’s an exhibit at the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum of Mac Conner’s work. He was a commercial artist in New York City after World War II – as was Andy Warhol. Afterward, you can dine at the historic Red Lion Inn.
Farther south, Edie’s ancestor William Ellery is buried in the historic Common Burying Ground and Island Cemetery in Newport, R.I. Many other famous people are buried there, including lighthouse keeper Ida Lewis, financier August Belmont, Jr., and Janet Lee Bouvier Auchincloss, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ mother.
Fans of campus architecture can visit Williams College in Williamstown Mass. The school, founded by Edie’s ancestor Ephraim Williams, offers tours on weekdays beginning at 10 am. (Check the tour schedule here.) The college also has a fine art museum, free to the public year-round. Closer to Boston is the Groton School, founded by Edie’s great-grandfather, Endicott Peabody. You can drive around the campus (here’s a map), then find plenty of places to eat in Groton, Mass.
A Maine History Museum
The scene of the unsolved murder and bank robbery in our story, Suicide or Murder – The Unsolved Mystery of the 1878 Dexter Savings Bank Robbery, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s part of the Bank Block of Dexter, Maine, at 15 Main St., and ‘a significant local example of Italianate and Romanesque architecture.’
If you associate the name ‘Dexter’ with the once-ubiquitous log-cabin-style shoe outlets, you would be correct. The company was founded in a vacant Dexter woolen mill in 1958 by Harold Alfond. Dexter is a small town near Bangor that boasts a museum, the Abbott Museum, which is open year-round on Saturdays from 10-4. There are seven historic exhibits on the lower level, covering veterans, woolen mills, a machine shop and foundry, photos of the North Woods, products made in Dexter, an old barber shop and a local sports Hall of Fame. It also has tourist information, a gift shop and a genealogy collection.
In 1870, police rounded up fans at an illegal prizefight on Charles Island off the coast of Milford, Conn. Reddy the Blacksmith and his gang of Bowery Boys from New York had staged the fight. Today, Charles Island is part of Silver Sands State Park, designated a Natural Area Preserve for herons and egrets. The 14-acre island is accessible by a rocky sandbar at low tide, and it is believed (by some) to hold treasure buried by pirate William Kidd.
Places To Visit Soon
There’s nothing like a battlefield for American Revolution buffs. Though the battle was in New York, the Bennington Battle Monument is in Bennington, Vt. The 306-foot-tall monument will open its observation platform in mid-April (along with its gift shop). From there you can see three states.
Just a short drive away, in Walloomsac, N.Y., is the actual Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site. Open in May, Revolutionary War buffs (and anyone else) can drive around the scenic battlefield, see a short film at the Visitors Center and get a feel for the battle through interpretive signs.
Sedgwick Pie photo By Dtobias via Wikimedia.