Greenfield’s Museum of Our Industrial Heritage New Web Exhibits

When the Connecticut River Dammed Us All To A Different Topography

In centuries past, before car travel was the norm and the Connecticut River had been dammed to generate electricity, boats and barges on the river helped to connect communities in the Pioneer Valley to the small cities and towns further down the river’s bank. Throughout the Pioneer Valley, there are traces leftover from the days before automobile and if you know where to look, these traces can help to teach about the development of these local communities.

Greenfield's Museum of Our Industrial Heritage New Web Exhibits

One such place that gives clues as to its past is a village in the southeastern end of Greenfield. Originally called Cheapside, all that’s left of this early 19th century hub is a street bearing the former port’s name. Cheapside Street runs parallel to the western shore of the Connecticut River, and marks what was once Cheapside Port, a bustling barge stop.

Thanks to a recent discovery by the Museum of Our Industrial Heritage, families can learn about the history of Cheapside, as inspired by an 1805 artistic rendering of the port itself. A 7’x18′ mural titled, Cheapside River Port by artist Stephen Maniatty has been unearthed and digitally archived by the museum, allowing families an interactive online opportunity to learn about local history. Paired with a description of Cheapside’s history, a high-resolution image of the painting is available, allowing viewers to get a close-up look at the action depicted in the mural. Showcasing a covered bridge over the Connecticut River, multiple barges, and what appear to be community members doing business with one another, the mural shares a bright and detailed image of Cheapside in the early 1800’s.

In addition to the mural, families can further explore the history of the early Greenfield neighborhood by utilizing resources from the Memorial Hall Museum’s online archives. Amongst the museum’s online resources is a second artistic representation of early Cheapside. Created by an unknown artist, View of Cheapside depicts the neighborhood from afar, allowing the heavily-settled neighborhood with a trestle bridge and dirt roads to contrast with the green landscape that surrounded it. Additionally, an interactive activity shares information about specific parts of the painting. By scrolling over the painting, viewers can learn about what life in Cheapside may have been like.

As well as using the two paintings to learn about local history, families can compare and contrast the two different views of the early community. The mural shows Cheapside’s bustling riverfront, while the smaller painting shows the community nestled amongst the greenery of the Pioneer Valley. Work together to identify similarities and differences between the two paintings, and make some guesses about each artist’s intentions based on their portrayal of the neighborhood.

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