Home Sweet Home Opens Doors to Historical Learning

Home Sweet Home: Open House Day at The Trustees of Reservations Historic Homes

From early 1700’s missionaries to mid-20th century architecture, The Trustees of Reservations’ Home Sweet Home: Open House Day offers families a chance to learn about lots of fascinating history. Opening the doors of historic homes across Massachusetts all day long on Saturday, May 31st, the Home Sweet Home event will allow visitors to certain Trustees properties access to spaces not often open to the public – this opportunity is not to be missed!

Locally, families in western Massachusetts can choose from five different properties to visit. Each historic home is related to both local and national history, and has its own unique story to tell. The tale of each place uses architecture, landscape, material culture, and the stories of the people who inhabited it in order to put historical eras and events into context for visitors. Covering everything from the Mohican Indians and abolition to to The New York Evening Post, visits to western Massachusetts’ historic homes are a fantastic way for families with children of all ages to learn and explore together.

While the majority of the local homes included in the event are in the Berkshires, the William Cullen Bryant Homestead is located in Cummington, right in the center of the Hilltowns. A sprawling Victorian-era home, the Bryant Homestead was the boyhood home and late-in-life summer residence of William Cullent Bryant, poet and editor of The New York Evening Post. A visit to the property can include a study of Victorian architecture, or an exploration of the homes grounds – which include trails, old growth forest, and maple trees that have been tapped for over 200 years.

Opportunities for exploration abound in the Berkshires, where four different historic homes will be open to visitors. The Folly at Field Farm, located in Williamstown, offers a chance to explore post-World War II architecture and its place amongst the picturesque 300-acre grounds of the former farm. One of two similarly designed homes on the land, The Folly is not what most would imagine when thinking of a historic New England home. Built in the mid-1900’s, the house includes lots of glass and curves, and is filled with period art and furniture. A visit to the home can provide students with a look into the history of architecture and design, and will teach lots about 50’s style! Additionally, Field Farm’s four miles worth of trails open up endless possibilities for outdoor exploration – and there are even some caves to be found!

Visitors to Stockbridge can see both Naumkeag and Mission House, historic homes that tell very different stories within the town’s history. Mission House, constructed in 1742, was the home of missionary John Sergeant, who came to western Massachusetts to live amongst the Mohican indians. Originally located on Stockbridge’s Prospect Hill, the home was moved to Main Street in the 1930’s, and now is accompanied by Colonial-era gardens and a small cobbler’s shop. A visit to Mission House can teach families about the demise of the Mohican tribe, and the history of New England before the American Revolution.

Naumkeag, located nearby on Prospect Hill Road, was the summer home of three generations of the Choate family. Gifted to the Trustees in 1958, the home served as a “cottage” for the family, and is surrounded by extensive and beautifully designed gardens. Families can explore the property by going on a self-guided audio tour through the home’s gardens, which include deep fountain pools, four flights of stairs, a birch grove, and extensive beautiful landscaping. Designed in the Gilded Age, Naumkeag offers a look into the era’s unique style in architecture and design, and provides visitors with a look straight into the Choate family’s life in the home, as it includes all of its original contents. While you visit, don’t forget to consider why it was that families from away wanted summer homes in the Berkshires in the first place!

The southernmost Berkshire home included in the event is Ashley House. Located in Sheffield, the home is the place in which famous former slave Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman was enslaved until she sued Colonel John Ashley for her freedom. Her case set a precedent for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts, and makes the home an important local landmark. Built in 1735, Ashley House includes traditional early New England architecture and reflects what life was like during the 18th century. Filled with collections of centuries-old tools, furniture, and other items, Ashley House provides a lesson not only in American history, but in the changes in technology and goods that have taken place throughout the last few hundred years.

Admission to each of the historic homes included in Home Sweet Home: Open House Day is free for all, and the homes will be open between 10am and 2pm. Families interested in doing a day trip can choose from four other locations across the state, including Castle Hill at the Crane Estate in Ipswich and The Old Manse in Concord. For more information about the event, contact lmarshall@ttor.org or call 978-356-4351 ex. 4049.

[Photo credit: (cc) Andrea]

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