Old Country Store — Museum

Last week, I shared photos from a visit to the Old Country Store in Moultonborough. This week’s photos come from climbing up the stairs into the museum on the second floor.

stairs with a sign reading "Museum" overhead

My general impression of the museum can be summed up in one word: STUFF. Good stuff, valuable stuff, but overall a lot of STUFF!

It’s quite evident the owners put time and thought into arranging the items they have on display. Most are grouped together by function, and most have distinct functions. There are few to no pieces of frippery. Rather, the displays show the kinds of things people used to do a lot of work now dominated by machinery.

Consider the display of saws and axes along one wall, or the cabinet holding cobbler and leather tools. The farm tools or blacksmith tools.

One of my favorite displays included a ballot box.

array of boxes, bellows, and a box for town representative

And the information about the store’s history . . .

bulletin board with photos and maps about the old country store above a longer bulletin board with advertising trade cards

This only represents a slice of the items on display. If you happen to be in the area, consider stopping by. You can always pick up some three penny candy on your way on or out!

Moultonborough Old Country Store

Up in the Lakes District of New Hampshire, on one of the main state routes, sits the Old Country Store of Moultonborough. It’s now a country store and museum. By country store, they mean they sell a little of everything. Exactly what everything has changed some over the years–I saw a lot more tchotchkes this time than I remember from before–but there’s food, clothing, cooking utensils, and books.

You can park in back of the store. Once upon a time parking in front was allowed, but things got busy, so . . . here’s the view coming around from the parking lot in back.

view of a large house with an extensive attached barn/building

Plus two views of the front.

Outside of the store, there’s a framed bill for back when this was a stop on the stage line up from Concord NH. There’s also an old coach (with pretend horses) visible through windows as a display from the road–but I couldn’t get a good enough photo due to the glare.

old broadside advertising a mail stage between Concord and Conway, which stopped at the country store

And if that’s not enough to what interest, parts of the store inside are very much as they’d have been in earlier times–even if the things they sell are more modern. Here are a variety of views of the older cabinets, cash registers, and more.

I picked up a variety of 3-penny candy to take back to my workplace and share with my co-workers (for years it was 2-penny candy but inflation has to hit even here!)

But that’s enough for the moment. Next week — we venture upstairs into the museum. You think there’s a lot in these photos? Just wait!

Coteau-du-lac National Historic Site

For a last Canadian historic site (for now), here are photos from a visit to Coteau-du-lac National Historic Site. This is on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River, the site of the first lock canal in Canada, plus the remains of a fort . . . and more.

shows a model of a fort with a lock canal and a second, narrow passageway along the curved edge of the shore

This first photo is of a model of the fort. It shows the lock canal and general outlines of the fort as it was in it’s heyday — but also, it shows a canal/passage older than the lock canal which winds around the headway. This is a spot which people have been using for centuries to passage between two lakes on the St. Lawrence.

As you can see from the line(s) of white across the river, there are good reasons for people to want to avoid the rapids here.

One of the facts I found particularly interesting–from talks with the rangers stationed at Coteau-du-lac (I wound up talking to three of them as I made my way around) was that in the 1930s the river level here dropped 30″! It’s still nowhere near as high as it once was, which partly explains why the remains of the canal are so dry.

Most of the fort fell apart over time, and only the foundations remain. One of the key visual marks of the fort is the tower — this is a replica, built as accurately as possible with the exception of location. It’s right next to the original foundation.

Overall, an enjoyable site–and I lucked out with nearly perfect weather for the visit, too!

Fort Chambly National Historic Site

While up in Quebec a month or so ago, I stopped at Fort Chambly National Historic Site. It’s located south and east of Montreal. It was an absolutely gorgeous day when I was there. Alas, I arrived a bit too late, since I’d visited a different site earlier (photo & account next week!). Oh, I was able to get into the site and walk around all right . . . but, horrors of horrors (yes there’s a bit of sarcasm in this), I actually had to pay for parking. This being not only a gorgeous day but Sunday, a sizable number of citizens had come out to enjoy themselves.

The fort has a wonderful location on the river, and the park around it makes it a top-of-the-line attraction for picnickers. As shown here . . .

And then there’s the fort itself. It’s actually the last of four forts, first built in wood and only later in stone (circa 1709-1711). Originally, it was intended to protect the French against the Iroquois. Later, it was a line of defense against the English.

The entrance is on the north side (I think!) not too close to the river, but enough around that any force coming up along the river would have to go around the fort to get to the entrance.

There’s a large open space in the center, as typical of European-style forts. Nowadays, since it’s a museum, this is a staging area for all sorts of activities. For instance, as you can see at the center, one can try on an army costume (I didn’t):

Here are a few views of interior spaces — and of windows showing just how thick the walls are (plus the gorgeous view of the river!):

There’s also a place to peer down at the foundations of earlier forts, built in wood atop stone or partly wood, partly stone.

And then there’s the museum inside the fort, as well. They’ve done a very good job at making a colorful display set to appeal to many ages. Here are some photos of the individuals highlighted as part of a display on smuggling:

In short, I regret that I had not more time to spend there (and that I didn’t arrive early enough to snag a free parking spot, since there were a lot!) but that’s life. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, I recommend stopping by!

Big Bone Lick State Historic Site

Okay, I’ll admit it. One of the reasons I visited Big Bone Lick State Historic Site was to see the bison. And they were worth it (there were calves!)–for the benefit of those who prefer not to read or scroll all the way to the end, here are a few photos.

Getting those photos took rather longer than I would have wished. I had my dog Riley with me. He’s a medium-sized dog, but when he wants to he can let loose with high-pitched yapping. Bison evidently were worthy of all the yaps he could summon. It took quite a while to settle him down to the point I could hear myself think, and so he wasn’t annoying the other visitors. The bison, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care at all. Perhaps they knew that, if the double fences between us were to dissolve, they could totally take him (they could, too, there’s a reason there were two fences).

The path downhill to where the bison are kept.
The path downhill to where the bison are kept

Bison are not the only attraction at Big Bone Lick. The name comes from the number of big bones found in the area–dinosaur, mammoth, and various now-extinct species–plus the presence of a salt lick, which drew the animals. Several Native American tribes, in particular the Shawnee, used the salt lick. I didn’t take photos of the bones (most of which are in storage, the museum, or still in the ground–a museum attendant mentioned guesstimates of tens of thousands of bones still covered by earth). Nor am I going to recount the story of European-Americans discovering the bones (see the website for that, under history).

On the other hand, I walked down to the salt lick and took some photos along the way, and of salt trickling out from under a wooden platform. Following in the footsteps of the extinct animals and Shawnee, European-American settlers extracted salt and for a while the area became a health resort (of the early 19th century sort). But they didn’t exhaust the salt. It’s still there, still trickling out from the earth.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

When I hear or read the phrase “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” I think of the book by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Most people in the United States who are at all familiar with 19th century American history probably have the same association. Canadians may have a different view on the matter, however.

Ontario has the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site, run by the Ontario Heritage Trust. It sits at a site where Rev. Josiah and Nancy Henson lived and lead the Dawn Settlement–a Black settlement mostly of people who had escaped from slavery in the United States, as the Hensons did. Indeed, Rev. Josiah, Nancy, and their four children escaped along the Underground Railway from New Orleans up to Canada in 1830–this after he had arranged to purchase freedom but was betrayed.

Two story house with porch; three men in foreground
The Henson House (the men in the foreground are arranging festivities to celebrate Emancipation Day)
Two old rocking chairs with an enlarged photo of the Hensons nearby.
Two old chairs in the museum, with a photo of the Hensons.

The museum hosts a group of buildings including the Henson’s house, another house, a church, sawmill, smokehouse, and a family cemetery.

Here are three views of the sawmill. It’s open-air with a very high roof.

A smokehouse made from a roof being placed over a very large hollowed out tree trunk, with a small door below

And here’s the smokehouse. This gives an idea of the size of the trees that were cut down and turned into logs in the sawmill! It must have been a stunning site to see–all the old-growth trees before the forests were cut down.

The church was quiet when I visited — on Emancipation Day in Ontario, as it happens, and later in the day there were a number of events at the museum! All things considered, not at all a bad day to go — but I recommend visiting anyway. It’s in the middle of farms and fields, a lovely quiet drive with a well-done a museum at the end.

Southwold Earthworks

This summer, I took a side trip or two up into Canada. I didn’t spend all my time taking photos, but I did manage to visit a few historic sites and bring back some images. We’ll start with the Southwold Earthworks. This is a National Historic Site. It’s not that far off one of the main east-west arteries through Ontario.

These earthworks are all that remain of an Attiwandaron village from around 1500-1650 C.E. They were part of the Iroquois, the “Neutral Iroquois.” The earthworks themselves are mostly the defensive walls surrounding the village. Many are mown regularly by someone who lives nearby, some are in the woods. It’s a quiet site, open to the public, with only a few signs to mark it’s existence.

As it happens, a local man with his dog pulled up at the same time as I did. The man regularly walks his dog here because its young and can run off leash (very happily, too). He grew up in the area and told me he used to ride horses here as a young boy, with other area children, and play around the earthworks. You can probably guess some of the games.

Small dog sniffing alongside a mound with flowering trees in the background

A very peaceful spot now, and one worth visiting if you happen to be passing by.

History, Experience, and Views: Mount Washington Cog Railway

I happened to be in New Hampshire a while back and took a ride on the cog railway up Mount Washington. This is the second time I’ve done so–the first was about 20 years ago give or take. The cog railway was the first such, following patents, and built in the late 19th century. It’s still in operation, a private enterprise which runs profitable (I presume) pleasure runs up and down the mountain. Nevertheless, things have changed since the first runs and even since the start of the 21st century!

Mountain in distance, people in foreground, with a bio-diesel train and passenger car easing down the rails
Two bio-diesel trains coming down to base camp at mid-day

The biggest change is that most of the trains are now bio-diesel. The Railway keeps a few coal-fired trains running each day, at either end. This is a good change for the environment, and I applaud it. It does make for a slightly different experience. Some of the differences are more welcome than others. The billows of smoke from the coal-fired engine are quite evocative–but can also make breathing harder. The bio-diesel engines are a LOT faster up the mountain and require much less human work. Bio-diesel thus doesn’t require someone tossing shovel after shovel of coal into the engine on the way up–or a brakeman carefully adjusting the brakes on the way down.

There’s a small museum at the base camp which showcases the history. Or check the website for some of the same information (albeit without the physical presence of artifacts).

The ride itself hasn’t changed as much. The passenger carriages sit 4-6 per row, 2-3 per side, with one carriage per engine at least at the time I was there. You sit facing up on the way up and facing down going down–with the seats angled for the return so that people aren’t sliding forward when we’re hitting the steepest pitches.

Man standing & others sitting in passenger carriage, most looking backward.
We’re fairly level–at the moment.

The engine is at the back–pushing on the way up and slowing on the way down (the bio-diesel, that is; the brakeman in the passenger carriage is doing most of the work of slowing things). The rails rise high enough that from the start the views are quite good.

The hiking trail up Mount Washington runs near the rails, so one can see hikers — and various signs and cairns left by previous visitors. And, of course, riders get to spend time at the top. This can be a mixed blessing–the top of Mount Washington is notorious for bad weather and, indeed, visitors are regularly greeted with something along the lines of “Welcome to the World’s Worst Weather!” The mountain lies in three storm tracks, and according to our brakeman sometimes when they reach the top of the mountain nobody wants to get off the train things are so bad! There’s a small museum in the summit all about bad weather on Mount Washington.

Fortunately for me and the others traveling the same day, it was lovely. A “top 10” type day. Definitely cooler but not cold as the winds had mostly died down. The majority of travelers had prepared and come with sweaters or jackets (which were also for sale inside). Here are some of the gorgeous views.

It’s expensive in monetary terms (so is driving the road up the mountain). And that doesn’t include the time it takes to get there. Is it worth it? Yes, but take into account that I did luck out with one of the most beautiful days possible at the top!

Oh, and if you do decide to go–take the warnings about GPS very seriously. Set your GPS for the restaurant near the road to the base camp, not the camp itself. I didn’t follow this (actually didn’t read it until afterward), and my GPS tried to send me off onto a dirt road around the other side of the mountain. I knew better and kept on 302 until I came to the right turnoff–but it was a close thing.

Travel and Virtual Travel

I’ve been away visiting historic sites, museums, and more which will appear on this site over the next months. Of course I’m also planning more visits, too, for myself first and to share after.

Most of the time, I make deliberate plans to visit sites. On occasion, I’m more spontaneous. In either case, however, here are some of the things I try to take into account:

Open Hours — this is probably the biggest thing to check in advance. If it’s a Saturday in the summer, you’re probably good if you head wherever around mid-day. Other than that, though, checking for a website and posted hours is always wise. I recently drove back through part of my state on a Monday in August and several historic sites near my route were only open Wed-Sat or such.

Directions — also a good idea to check on websites. I know this is an era of GPS, but GPS devices are not always right! Particularly for places located out in less traveled areas. I’ve been to two high-profile places eminently worth visiting and in very different locations both of which warn visitors that GPS can lead them seriously astray. (For the curious, the two places I have in mind are Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and the Mount Washington Cog Railway Base Station in New Hampshire; in the case of the former you might find yourself wandering around rather aimlessly while the latter can leave you on the wrong side of the mountain).

Cost — if this matters, check in advance. Some are free, including some absolutely wonderful places. Others charge, and the fees can rack up high particularly if you’re not on your ownsome.

Guided tours / demonstrations — these are often highly worthy of attending, but don’t happen just by chance. If you haven’t decided when to visit somewhere, see if they offer any thing for which day/time is key and take that into consideration.

Special events — these complicate parking (assuming you aren’t there early) and can create long lines, but they also offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Your call. Be aware that, especially if you’re not a local or extremely plugged in, you may not even be aware a special event is scheduled until you arrive. Yes, this happened to me. I had a general idea there was something on a particular weekend at a particular site, but I thought it was for Sunday not Saturday. It was great timing, but completely accidental (and I was there early, so I had no trouble parking)

Accessibility — if this matters, check. More and more sites are preparing to ensure people with various situations can enjoy as much as possible, but it’s still catch-as-catch-can (as some of you likely know better than I)

I could keep on going on, but will stop for now. The main thing is: if you’re interested in historic places, go visit, talk, look, smell, touch, feel, and store up memories. (And ask questions, too, but that’s a whole different can of worms.)

What makes a site historical?

Most Tuesdays I post about a historical site. What, then, is my criteria for determining what qualifies as a historical site? After all, there are a variety of measures. Today (since I’m off busily visiting more sites to post about in the future) here are the types of sites I have and/or will post about as historical.

Land/buildings managed by governments as historical sites or parks, etc. This category includes sites managed by the US National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, or the state & local equivalents. Ditto for other countries, such as Parks Canada (I visited a few of their sites recently).

Historical museums, whether located in original historical buildings or elsewhere. This includes museums operated by governments at sites, or local museums such as those run by historical societies.

Places whose owners/controllers/operators incorporate historical elements and celebrate history as part of their operations. This is a fuzzier category and likely to be highly subjective. An example of this is the Mount Washington Cog Railway. The base camp building hosts a small museum celebrating nearly 150 years of operations and showcasing what has and hasn’t changed. And depending on the brakeman/person’s preferences as the train goes up and down, passengers might hear about elements of the railway’s history.

So stay tuned, because examples of these and others will be forthcoming over the remainder of 2019, at least.

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