Thursday, September 14, 2017

New England Villages: Storrowton Village Museum

As noted in recent posts, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.
Storrowton Village is a recreated village, located on the grounds of the “Big E” exposition in West Springfield MA.  It was created in the 1920s by philanthropist Helen Storrow, who organized and funded the purchase of nine historic New England buildings, dated from the late 18th and early 19th century, and their relocation to the fairgrounds, where they stand today as a living history museum.  Her intent, as stated in the museum’s current literature, was to recreate “a village such as our forefathers built on hills, crossroads and along rivers. Although Storrowton’s buildings come from different states and are of different periods of construction, together they form a typical New England Village and include a Meeting House, Schoolhouse, General Store, Blacksmith Shop, Tavern, Law Office and historic homes all surrounding a traditional village green.”
The museum is at its most active during the Big E fair (in 2017 from September 15 – October 1), but also hosts educational programs for children and a year-round restaurant (Storrowton Tavern).  (See the museum’s website here.
So what does Storrowton Village teach us about the possibility of a 21st Century “New” New England Village?  It displays, in three dimensions, the archetypes of ideal village buildings and, to a lesser extent, the archetype of a village layout (around a very geometric “green”).  These archetypes resonate over time and are powerful still.

If you like fairs (especially if you have younger kids), the Big E (website here) is terrific.  The Storrowton Village Museum is worth a visit any time you are in western Massachusetts.

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