Please watch your step.
Walks, streets, and floors replicate those of the 1800’s and are uneven
The above is the "warning" one receives while entering the gates of historic Crossroads Village of Flint, Michigan.
The best part is...it's true!
We here in southeastern lower Michigan are blessed with having not one but two open-air museums. Most people know of Greenfield Village in Dearborn, of which I have dedicated a blog to (http://gfv1929.blogspot.com/). Because auto-magnet, Henry Ford, had the wealth he was able to create a village beyond compare anywhere else in the United States, and probably Canada, too. I love Greenfield Village immensely, but, unfortunately, they have changed it quite a bit from Mr. Ford's original vision, adding cemented curbs and sidewalks and removing buildings that should not have been removed (the cooper & cobbler shops, a number of mills including the sugar mill, and a few other structures are some that have been scrapped). There is a Disney feel to it now, with the constant flow of Model T's, and that has taken away the Victorian ambiance one would get as they strolled through the village streets. Fortunately, the majority of the houses remain intact and are more accurate in their presentations inside and out than ever before. They did their homework for this portion and it shows.
We returned to Crossroads Village the other day and I feel this fine representation of a mid-to-late 19th century village deserves another mention - free advertising, so-to-speak. On this visit, we took some friends who felt this was one of the finest they have ever visited. They could tell immediately that this not nearly as famous open-air museum gives off that Victorian feeling immediately as soon as they entered the gates. The whole look and feel of the place just takes one right back in time, as you can see from the picture above shown here. Yes, this is what one sees as they step through the wooden ticket booth.
As you move past the original cars of the 19th century railroad (of which you can take a ride on), the wood-plank sidewalks take you through the "town" part of the village, the main street, which looks exactly like you would expect a main street to look like. It has stores, an opera house, a barber shop, a dentist office, a hotel...
And then there's the tavern on the outskirts of town.
Of course, every town (even one without horses, unfortunately) needs a blacksmith shop. Here is where one can watch the smithy work his trade, just as in the old days.
And, as with a blacksmith, most period towns had a gristmill. It's here that one can watch as the giant stone wheels grind the grain into flower. It's here where one can hear (and feel) the roar of the water turning the belts that work the magnificent equipment and to turn the wheels. And, one can also purchase flour made right here at the Atlas Mill.
Without refrigeration, ice houses were a necessity in keeping ice available (heavily covered in sawdust) throughout the warm weather months. It amazes me that ice can last well into summer in one of these unrefrigerated buildings.
As you move out of town you'll enter the neighborhood and see the houses - mostly farm houses - of Crossroads. I swear you fill feel as if you had literally stepped through a time-travel portal.
The milk cow was as important as any livestock a farmer could own. It's great that they show how a cow is milked for those of us living in the city.
And, of course, the picturesque church. Many folks get married here in this church which is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. And, when they used to have reenactments here, a period church service would be held. It is quite a site to be there in the midst of the ladies in their Sunday bonnets and men in their fine suits. Quite a change from today's society where folks wear t-shirts and jeans to church instead of their Sunday best.
There is plenty more to see than what's pictured here - much more, including a broom maker and a wooden toy maker, honing their crafts the old-fashioned way. Yes, they sell their wares. And about the only couple of things I would change would be the addition of horses and carriages and probably a few more shops and houses - cooper, cobbler, etc. And, the addition of a cemetery (only the tombstones, of course) would be that touch of realism that no one else has.
I mentioned in the original blog that they needed more period accurate presenters. Well, after my recent visit the other day I'm here to say that there has been major improvements here, especially at the Salter Log cabin. We were pleasantly surprised.
They do have a carriage shop, barns, more houses, a lawyer's home, a doctor's office - all of the period.
Now, if only they would bring back the Civil War weekend!