Ye Olde Historick Epick Carre Trippe
By Dwip August 12, 2009, 3:58 pm Comments (1) RSS Feed for this post

Being Part 2 of the two-part photo record of the trip Sarah and I took through western Massachusetts back in July. As of this post, it’s been exactly a month since we went, which I guess tells you how good I am about getting these things done.

Part 1 is here, and is the post right below this one. Can’t miss it. As opposed to certain places in Massachusetts, but more on that in time.

When last we left off, we had arrived in Deerfield for the night, which bills itself as being Historic Deerfield, as well as the home of the Deerfield Academy, which I am told by my girlfriend who knows these things happens to be a prestigious boarding school. For our part, we stayed in the historic Deerfield Inn, in the “carriage house” no less, which isn’t so much historick with the k as it is rebuilt in 1982, but you know. It was nice anyway:

I didn’t get the room shot, but it’s nice. A little on the expensive side, but nice. It also, and this featured prominantly the next morning when we went to do stuff, had a jacuzzi shower. The function of this contraption is apparently to use several different jets to spray scalding hot water with no regard to the temperature knob, unless you know the secret turn to make it work like a normal shower. We did not know the secret turn. They tell us that the burns should heal in a couple more weeks.

…No, not really. Our college educations haven’t made us that dumb. Yet.

In the morning, we spent time in three houses there, which is about what you want to do unless you’re seriously interested in life in New England from the Colonial period to roughly the 1830s. If you ARE interested, definitely go spend a day or so in Deerfield. You’ll get your fill.

This is my postcard of the Ashley House, Ashley being the name of the town minister who lived there back in the day and who was connected by marriage to all sorts of important folks in the Massachussets colony, or so our highly informative and interesting tour guide told us.

We didn’t get to take pictures inside, but take my word for it that it is very dark, a little cramped, and a little lacking in windows because in the 1730s you weren’t all that far removed from a time when marauding Indians sacked the whole town, and it turns out that if you’re one of the marauding Indians, leaping in through the window is a great method of house entry.

It also seems that, not only can you fit two people in a bed that’s about a foot smaller than a queen in every dimension, you can fit an astonishing number of people in a bedroom smaller than mine at night, hence the whole bed curtains thing.

I was also not entirely aware of the extent to which people in colonial America were able to get such things as Chinese ceramics, although they were able to get fake Chinese ceramics, some of them hilariously bad, much more easily.

After that well-spent hour, we went to the Wells-Thorn House, which got done up with rooms in several styles, about one per 20 years from the 1730s to the 1850s. Very interesting, although you learn some interesting yet somewhat disturbing facts, such as:

– The second leading cause of death for colonial women after childbirth turns out to be burns, often caused by reaching into backs of fireplaces because that was where you put the bread oven. This fact has completely derailed my possible future career as a colonial housewife, although the part where you never, ever actual wash your cooking pots was a close second.

– Apparently, the big thing to do in farmhouse attics was to let bees live up there, because bees are useful for things. However, as you also need somewhere for your servants/slaves/whoever to sleep, you generally let them sleep in the attic. With the bees. I’ll just let you think about that for a moment. When you stop screaming, I’ll be here.

That would be the Stebbins house, which was something like the first brick house in town and features mostly 1820s or therabouts furnishings, which include room after room of some absolutely incredible wall paintings, done in a time when painting the inside of your house to look like fake classical architecture was cool, and when randomly having paintings of George Washington was also cool.

It was also done at a time when having exotic wall paper was cool, and on that note, I want you to imagine somebody’s front hallway. Include a really nice two story semi-circular winding staircase, at the top of which is a large landing. Then I want you to imagine the entire thing with this wall paper, which purports to show Captain Cook in Tahiti:

Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

You can see the whole thing here or at Wikipedia as you desire. Very stylish.

Deerfield having been accomplished, we went over to nearby Greenfield to find some food and go find this bookstore that was supposed to be inside of an old mill and which would combine perfectly our love of ridiculously touristy venues with our love of writing printed on dead trees.

First, however, we needed lunch. You know those highway billboards telling you where the nearest McDonald’s is? We had a conversation about like this while driving:

Sarah: I’m starving.
Me: Me too. Where do you want to eat?
Sarah: I don’t care. How about McDonald’s or something.
Me: Sounds good, but where is one in this town?
Billboard: *appears directly in front of us at that exact moment*
Us: Excellent.

As far as the whole bookstore thing went, we did not find it, but owing to the crazy layout of small town MA streets and a map from Google Maps that apparently wasn’t quite enough map, we did see just about every parking lot in central MA while turning around, including a funeral home, the Elk’s lodge, and what I think was a trucking company. Abandoning our love of books, we headed off down scenic MA Route 2, also known as the Mohawk Trail. From Greenfield, the whole drive was a couple of hours, and looks approximately like this the entire time:

There are many trees and mountains. Also water:

It is all very scenic, and quite enjoyable. Western Massachusetts is pretty good driving country, although as I was saying about Greenfield, the streets in the towns are…something. There was a point in North Adams (population of a few k) wherein I was looking at bridges going over bridges going over split roads, and seriously people why? They do have Mount Greylock, however. If you, like me, are a Westerner used to some real man’s mountains, you may wish to downgrade this one slightly, but it’s pretty nice, albeit featuring one of those lovely park service roads with 1.5 lanes, a 10 mph speed limit, and hairpin turns like mad.

This would also be the part where we, like many before us, hiked the Appalachian Trail, and we have proof:

For you political types out there, note that apparently the Trail does not extend to Argentina. This may be important to you if you are a governor and get lost. Just saying.

What it does feature is a lighthouse which is also a war memorial, erected in a time when doing these things made a lot of sense to a lot of people:

The view, as I am about to demonstrate to you, is pretty great:

That’s the park lodge.

That’s looking at what I’m pretty sure is North Adams.

I have many more, but I think you get the idea. It’s very nice. I keep saying it because it’s true.

Lastly, the Obligatory Shot Featuring Both Of Us So We Can Prove We Went There, Instead Of, Say, Kenya:

As a brief end note, we then drove for a ludicrous time south back into CT, where we drove for a less ludicrous time back to New Haven. It’s really quite astonishing to me how fast the whole thing goes from completely rural to intensely built up urban density along Whalley Avenue. It’s really crazy.

Not quite as crazy as that wall paper though.


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Comments on Ye Olde Historick Epick Carre Trippe
avatar Comment by Regina #1
August 12, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I don’t think it was the burns themselves that were the second leading cause of death for colonial women, it was the blood poisoning that would set in from the burns. Ponder THAT one for a minute…I think my possible career as a colonial housewife has also been derailed.

Also, the BEES. Aiee. Why’d you have to go reminding me of that? *gibber*