Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Winter Time at Greenfield Village

~ We come from the land of the ice and snow...


This winter of 2014 has been a record breaker for people who live in the Midwest and on the East Coast. For those of us who live in southeastern lower Michigan, TIME Magazine said that Detroit has been "the City Hardest Hit By the Awful Winter" and went on to say that "based on cold temperatures and snowfall, Detroit is experiencing the most extreme weather of any city in the country. We've had 6.5 feet of snow so far this winter and 100 days of below-freezing temperatures. That report was based on an index created by National Weather Service meteorologist Barbara Mayes Boustead."
Did they say "Awful"?
(By the way, another 6" of the white stuff fell since this article came out)
I'm a four seasons type of guy so I have been enjoying this so-called awful winter, just like I will enjoy spring, summer, and fall as those seasons come up.
I would enjoy winter more if my favorite historical out-door museum, Greenfield Village, would remain open during January, February, and March.
You see, by the 1st of December they close up the Village for daytime visitors and only remain open for their special Christmas Holiday Nights evenings.
Though the adjacent indoor Henry Ford Museum stays open year 'round, Greenfield Village closes its gates after Christmas.
I never quite understood this. I can maybe see not remaining open during weekdays, but how cool would it be to visit on a Saturday or Sunday and be able to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride? Or, during the late winter (and early spring) allowing folks to watch and possibly partake in maple sugaring?
They wouldn't need to open all of their houses as they normally do; they instead could have the two 'main' houses - the 1880's Firestone Farm and 1760's Daggett Farm, which are located on opposite ends of the Village - the only two structures open to the public so the visitors could see wintertime activities in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Behind their Porches and Parlors area (where they also show home life of the past) there is a sort of steep grassy incline that would be perfect for sledding - how many young kids today (besides those who have traditional parents like us) have ever been sledding?
Not many, I'm willing to bet.
And one of the best things is that the visitors would be able to enjoy the historic scenic beauty of wintertime that only Greenfield Village has to offer.
It's activities like this that can make the harsh cold winter that much more bearable. 
And it's history to boot! 
But, unfortunately, this not to be.
At least for now. 
One never knows the changes that lie ahead...right?
So, in the meantime, since visitors are not allowed inside Greenfield Village during the off season, I thought I would try something different to get a few winter shots: I walked along the perimeter brick wall, which is roughly six feet high, and held my camera above it. The great thing about my camera is that the angle of the LCD screen can be adjusted up to 90 degrees face up or face down, allowing me to view my subject clearly while I hold the camera at arms length above my head, in this case enabling me to capture the scenery waiting on the other side of the wall.
Understand, it's only a very small portion of this magnificent open-air museum that I was able to capture on film...er...on my memory card.
So, since it is still winter (even though it's March), I'd like to present the photos I was able to get and present them to you here:

The mid-1600's Farris Windmill relocated to Greenfield Village from Cape Cod is on the left and the 1750's Connecticut Saltbox house, originally built and owned by Samuel Daggett and his wife, Anna, is on the right. The Daggett House is one of my favorite historical houses...period. The presenters here do an amazing job replicating the daily life of a mid-18th century farm family.


The saltbox was a very popular style of architecture in colonial Connecticut. This form gets its name from the similarity in shape to the small chests used for storing salt at that time. The most distinctive feature is the asymmetrical gable roof, which has a short roof plane in the front and a long roof plane in the rear, extending over a lean-to. English settlers created the saltbox form by adapting a medieval house form to meet the different needs and climate of North America. The design was perfect for the harsh New England climate.

Besides building houses, Samuel Daggett worked the family farm and grew many different crops and raised several types of animals on his farm, for his family's use or to sell or trade for other things the family needed. From his account book, we know that Samuel Daggett grew wheat, corn, barley, oats and tobacco; made cider from the apples in his orchard; and raised cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens. One would think that would be enough to keep the man plenty busy, but, in order to provide for his family, Daggett also had additional sources of income, including making furniture; he made chairs, spinning wheels and even coffins.
Surprisingly, we find that he pulled aching teeth for his neighbors, a skill he learned from his father.

For this picture I was able to include the Plympton house, built in the early part of the 18th century, to complete our colonial winter scene.

The brick over the large fireplace of the Plympton house dates to 1640, to the original home of Thomas Plympton. Plympton was a founding father of the Puritan settlement of Sudbury, Massachusetts, and lived there with his wife, Abigail, and their seven children. This, after he came to North America from England as an indentured servant.

The original house of Thomas Plympton burned down in the early 1700's, years after his death, and his descendants who were living there at the time rebuilt the home around the original chimney.

Henry and Elizabeth Carroll and their family built this house, known as the Susquehanna Plantation, in the mid-1830's, where it sat upon 700 acres, and enjoyed a prosperous life, including hosting extravagant parties. They had five children.
Their 75 slaves, however, did not enjoy the same good life; they slept in 13 small, wood shacks with dirt floors and were made to work brutal hours in the fields, especially during harvest time.
The Carroll family was one of the wealthiest in St. Mary's County - the slaves alone, according to the 1860 census, were valued at $49,000. Among the slaves were skilled craftsmen, including blacksmiths, carpenters, coopers, shoemakers, and seamstresses.
  During the Civil War Remembrance Weekend on Memorial Day this house is used prominently in scenarios. Ahhh...hard to imagine reenactor tents set up now, though, isn't it?


Across the street from Susquehanna is the Cotswold Cottage collection.

Henry Ford desired to show America's ancestral European life and sent his agent, Herbert Morton, to find a typical Cotswold stone house for Greenfield Village. Morton eventually located this circa 1620 Rose Cottage in Chedworth, Gloucestershire, England, and found that it was for sale.
The workers dismantled the structures stone by stone - numbering each one individually - and packed them in gravel sacks. Soon the Cotswold collection was on its way to Dearborn, Michigan (via boat and then train), as were a number of the English builders, eager to help with the reconstruction.

The beautifully scenic Ackley Covered Bridge, built in 1832 in Pennsylvania, is photogenic whether summer or winter. In the old days, instead of plowing the snow out of the way as we do in our modern times, workers would use snow rollers to pack it down. They rolled the roads, covering the bare spots so that sleighs could get through, and if they came to a covered bridge or an area cleared of the white stuff, they would shovel a layer of snow onto the bridge floor or the bare area so that the sleigh runners wouldn't stick.


The Sarah Jordan Boarding House, built in 1870, originally stood near the laboratory where Thomas Edison and his men toiled in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Widowed in 1877, "Aunt Sally," as Sarah was known, lived in Newark, and was sent for in 1878 by her distant relative, Thomas Edison, to run a place for his workers to eat and sleep. With little employment opportunities for women, Mrs. Jordan accepted the offer and opened the home as a boarding house that same year.
Several of Edison's single employees lived here and would sleep two to three to a bed in the six rooms on the second floor. In fact, at the height of the laboratory's activities in 1880, sixteen boarders called this structure 'home.'


As you may or may not know, the former home of newspaper columnist George Matthew Adams, since being brought to the Village back in 1938, has been presented to show everyday life from around the time of Adams' birth in the 1870's.
However, it is going through a major change: beginning possibly before the Village closes for the 2014 season, the Adams House will become the "Saline Baptist Parsonage," showing the structure as it was during the 1840's when it actually was a Baptist Parsonage.
I am personally very excited for this change to happen, for the 1840's is one era that I felt was under-represented inside Greenfield Village.


I took this photo of the Adams House during Christmas using a slow shutter speed, so the shadows you see are some of the people strolling by that the shutter could not capture.

Or are they...?


It was in this simple two-story clapboard farmhouse (the white house in the distance) built in 1861 on the dividing line of Springwells and Dearborn Townships in Michigan, that Henry Ford, the first of William and Mary's six children, was born on July 30, 1863.


This is a photo of a part of the 'town' area of Greenfield Village. From the left is a replica (albeit much smaller) version of the first Ford Factory from 1903.

Next we have the Cohen Millinery Shop, originally located at 444 Baker Street in Detroit. It represents the new wave of specialized stores in the larger cities in the late 19th century. It was here that Mrs. Elizabeth Cohen made her living decorating women's hats from 1892 to 1903, catering to mainly the middle class genre.

To the right of the millinery we have the Heinz House. It was in the early 1860's in this Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania brick house, built in 1854, that Henry John (H.J.) Heinz (b. 1844), the son of a German immigrant brickmaker, produced the first of his more than "57 Varieties" of ketchup. Using horseradish grown in the family's truck garden along the Allegheny River, the boy grated and bottled it in vinegar in his mother's new basement kitchen. Yep, Heinz 57 was born right here in this building!

The following photographs are not mine. They were taken by a few of the presenters who work for the Village. They all know my love for this place and have very kindly shared their winter pictures with me, and I appreciate them allowing me to use these wonderful photos in my blog post!


The Firestone Farm was originally built by Peter Firestone in 1828 in Columbiana, Ohio (just a few miles from the Pennsylvania border), and was "updated" in 1882. It was brought to Greenfield Village in 1983 and is now a gem among gems inside the Village.


Among the family members living there in the latter half of the 19th century was young Harvey Firestone, the grandson of Peter, who would later gain fame and fortune in the tire industry and became a close friend of Henry Ford.


The Firestone Farm, as it stands now in Greenfield Village, is a living history re-creation of life on a farm of the 1880's in Eastern Ohio, and has been restored to look as it did in 1882, when Harvey's parents remodeled the house to give it a more modern look. The wallpaper and furnishings throughout the house show what was considered stylish in the later Victorian era.


During the 19th and into the 20th century, the Firestones raised a large flock of sheep, with wool being their 'cash crop,' but they also harvested oats, hay, corn, and wheat.

As I write this we still have over a foot of snow on the ground and the unplowed side streets of my town are also covered with snow and ice as well. It is, after all, only March, and here in the cold north country the winter takes its sweet old time leaving.
This isn't the Disney world land where as soon as March comes the sun begins to shine, temperatures head up to 70, and daffodils and apple blossoms suddenly bloom.
I realize this and therefore find myself more tolerable and, dare I say, even enjoying our weather. And this helps me stay in a much better mood than so many of my friends who's tolerance is way low.
This time traveler is prepared for reality...
Have a great day!











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