New England history is mostly associated with the Revolutionary War era, but it’s the prosperous period just before the Industrial Revolution that most closely typifies the image of small-town life passed down to us from Burl & Ives and Grandma Moses. That’s the time period captured at the Old Sturbridge Village living-history museum (1 Old Sturbridge Village Rd., 508/347-3362, www.osv.org , 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Apr.–Oct. 23; 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed.–Sun. Oct. 24–Nov.; Thu.–Sun. Dec.–Mar., $20 adults, $18 seniors, $7 children 3–17, free children under 3), a reconstructed 1830s New England village.
Sturbridge Village dates back to the 1920s, when several local industrialists, overwhelmed with a fast-moving society of motion pictures, automobiles, and airplanes, set out to preserve a simpler past. They found buildings all over the region, moved them to the site of an old farm, and filled them with antiques gathered in decades of collecting.
The coup de grace—and what still makes Sturbridge Village so interesting today—was hiring dozens of costumed actors who assumed roles in the town and learned traditional country skills to demonstrate to visitors. Today, you can spend several hours going from building to building to see performers (who never break character) demonstrate blacksmithing, weaving, food storage, and animal husbandry.
Sturbridge Village has adjusted over the years to become a year-round destination, offering sleigh rides in the winter and old-time baseball games in summer. Whenever you visit, you’ll leave more thankful for your dishwasher than ever.