Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Big E 100 Years: Step Back in Time at Storrowtown Village

 In advance of The Big E's Centennial Season, New England Fall Events treats you to a taste of what this classic New England festival has in store for you and your family. Each of our posts leading up to their 100th year will feature a different section of the The Big E experience but if you want the whole enchilada at once, click to read our article "New England Fall Events' Complete Guide to The Big E."

Storrowtown Village History Museum
Storrowton Village was high on our list of must-sees at The Big E. This living history museum is situated on the Avenue of the States across from the state buildings which together combine for a very convenient and “manageable” Big E experience. Imagine our surprise to find that Storrowtown Village was one of the least crowded attractions we attended that morning. With so much action, food, games, and hullabaloo competing for your attention at The Big E, quaint and calm Storrowton Village is a veritable respite from the crowds and bustle.

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Scenes from the peaceful Storrowton Village, The Big E's living history museum.

With docents, artisans, and tradespeople dotting the interior buildings and outdoor booths, the 18th and 19th century buildings encircle a postcard-pretty common where children and run and play across the grass and under the shade from trees. Not just any living history museum, Storrowton Village’s nine standalone housing structures have a fascinating back story.

Helen Osborne Storrow, an early trustee of the Eastern States Exposition (aka The Big E), is responsible for the development of this exhibit on the fairgrounds. These buildings have the remarkable distinction of having been built in place elsewhere (originally in other parts of Massachusetts or New Hampshire). They were purchased, deconstructed, transported to Springfield’s fairgrounds, and then re-built on the new village property. These buildings faithfully represent the original use of the building and are intended to highlight various aspects of early New England life.

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L to R: Storrowton's tinsmithing exhibit, the gazebo on the village common, and Storrowton's preserved law office.

The Phillips House homestead was built in 1767 in Taunton, MA before it was purchased in 1930 and added to Storrowton Village as a way for expo visitors to experience first-hand the beauty and character of 18th-century New England craftsmanship. Among the village structures you’ll find the steepled meeting house, the Little Red Schoolhouse, a farmhouse, a tiny law office, a stone blacksmith shop, a tavern, and a sunny yellow mansion.

Situated between two village houses we stumbled across what proved to be one of our absolute favorite demonstrations of the day—the paper marbling demonstration by John Bielik and his apprentice Kevin Lynch. With two large, shallow troughs of water, Mr. Lynch spattered drops of paint onto the still water with multiple colors as Mr. Bielik narrated the process and answered questions from the audience.

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John Bielik and Kevin Lynch demonstrate stunning paper marbling techniques at their Storrowtown Village exhibit.

Once the paint had settled, Mr. Lynch artfully dragged needles and rakes across the water to pull the paint into gorgeous scrolls and technical patterns. Once pleased with the design, he gently laid a sheet of paper to float on the surface of the water and sopped up excess paint outside the paper edges with scraps of newspaper. With great care he lifted the paper up from the corner and affixed the marbled paper to a board where he washed away residual paint with a stream of water. At last the paper is hung to dry and on kept on display for us fair-goers to appreciate and admire. Better yet, the marbled papers we saw were available for purchase ($10-$20)—we bought two!

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Storrowton's Little Red Schoolhouse.
Other interesting demonstrations within Storrowton Village were tinsmithing, chair making, and broom making. We enjoyed chatting with the potter Reggie Delarm who mentioned she’d been coming to The Big E most of her life and now shares her artistry with the rest of us each season. She also filled us in on Helen Osborne Storrow’s vision and the history of how Storrowton Village came to be.

When we asked Ms. Delarm about what her “must-sees” were, she insisted we not overlook the events and demos at the Mallary Complex. During our chat, another fair-goer introduced himself and was delighted to offer his Big E top spots. He pulled out a copy of the fairground map (in fact, he had five spare copies!) and pointed out how to get from point A to B to C to see it all.

Craft Common
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Log Cabin Lamps for sale inside
the The Big E's Craft Common
With a handy new printed map in tow, we headed out beyond the Avenue of the States to check out the Craft Common where we window shopped stall after stall (after stall…after stall) of crafters too numerous to mention. The timing of The Big E, landing during the last three weekends of September, lends itself nicely to early-bird holiday shopping. Not exclusive to artisan stalls, if you are looking for lotions, toe rings, reed diffusers, switch plate covers, bamboo flutes, personalized ornaments, slippers, or log cabin lamps, you will easily find it here. These vendors are not exclusive to New England crafters/producers as you’ll find in the Avenue of the States buildings nor are the crafts limited to handmade products.

       Ready for more? Read our Complete Guide to New England's The Big E!

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