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April 4, 2023 James Golden

Historic Deerfield Opens for the Season April 15

Welcome back! Historic Deerfield will soon reopen to the public in full! Over the long winter, only the Flynt Center of Early New England Life has been open, and only on the weekends. Starting April 15th, Historic Deerfield will be fully open to the public, Wednesday through Sundays and Holiday Mondays.

We are particularly excited to announce that our newly restored and reinterpreted Barnard Tavern will be open for tours for the first time in nearly two decades! To celebrate, the Tavern will be at the center of our fun, family-friendly Opening Day festivities.

Erastus Barnard of Deerfield (1768-1852) held an innkeeper’s license from 1796 to 1804, operating the tavern with his wife, Sally Baker Whitney (1775-1825). They left Deerfield in 1805, moving to Canandaigua, New York. While their time in Deerfield was relatively brief, it coincided with tumultuous and important moments in the life of the Early Republic. You can imagine turn-of-the-nineteenth-century-Deerfielders raising a glass and arguing over trade embargoes, the bitter partisanship between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, and diplomatic scandals. We are delighted to interpret this era through Historic Deerfield’s first commercial space.

On April 15th, Barnard Tavern will be open for visitation with guides stationed throughout the space: visitors can explore at their own pace. Elsewhere, in our Visitor’s Center at Hall Tavern, Merry Company will perform and teach country dancing. Demonstrations of coopering, broom-making, and an 18th-century doctor are also on the schedule, along with wagon rides. Tim Eriksen, our Musician-in-Residence, will lead visitors in old-fashioned Yankee Singing Schools, while our new Printer-in-Residence, Martin Antonetti, will have the Wilson Printing Office open to the public.

On the same day, Historic Deerfield will also open its new exhibition, Garden of Hearts:  Madeline Yale Wynne and Deerfield’s Arts and Crafts Movement. The Arts and Crafts Movement’s emphasis on handcraft, skill, and beauty in the face of mass-production and industrialization transformed Deerfield. The village had fallen on hard times after the Civil War, and talented women were able to reinvent Deerfield as a center of skilled artisanship.

This exhibition showcases one of the masterpieces of the Arts and Crafts Movement: an ornamented chest produced by Deerfield summer resident Madeline Yale Wynne, called “Garden of Hearts.” Inspired by the iconic Connecticut River Valley chests of the eighteenth century, the exquisite piece exemplifies her talent in woodworking, painting, and metalsmithing. A recent, flagship acquisition for Historic Deerfield, the chest will be exhibited alongside objects from the collections of Historic Deerfield and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association. Together they tell the important story of the Arts and Crafts movement in Deerfield—female entrepreneurship and the beauty of skilled craft in a time of transition.

Later in the spring, visitors can become reacquainted with some of the heritage breeds of sheep they met last year when Wooly Wonders, our Heritage Breed Sheep Event, returns on May 20th and 21st.  Heritage breeds are a crucial part of our historical knowledge, and ensuring their ability to continue to thrive is as much an act of preservation as maintaining the historic architecture of Deerfield.  We are excited to exhibit Shetland, Lincoln Longwool, Romney, and Merino sheep alongside demonstrations of shearing, spinning, carding, weaving, and historic knitting. Visitors can get hands-on and try weaving, dyeing, carding and other fun activities. Also, the incredibly popular sheepdog demonstrations will be back, alongside fun collections-based scavenger hunts in the Flynt Center of Early New England Life.

On October 11th, 1809, the Hampshire Gazette reported that “subscribers have at a great expence (sic) obtained a small flock of Spanish sheep,” which included “a full blooded MERINO RAM”. We are delighted to do the same and hope you will join us this Spring when we explore the history of such sheep in the Connecticut River Valley. Unlike in 1809, when the ram was serious business, both Wooly Wonders and our Barnard Tavern Opening Day Celebration will be replete with family fun. We invite you to get hands-on with our activities and crafts, take tours, explore the new tavern, and come back to the Deerfield Street.