Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Collections Information Now Up on Porter-Phelps-Huntington's Website!

I don't want to toot my own horn (too much), but I was so pleased to see these pages go up on the PPH Museum's website! I wrote these descriptions on the collections page and took the photographs when I worked there three summers ago. So glad to see it go up so that people get a better idea of what can be seen at this great historic house museum. Perhaps it will increase visitor numbers. There can only be benefits when enriching and broadening content on a website!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Two Seasonal Museums to Visit

It may be only mid-August, but the fall will be here much sooner than you think! And when mid-October comes rolling along, many of the museums in the Valley will close. The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum is one, but I've written enough about them for now! Two others I want to highlight are the Hadley Farm Museum and the Skinner Museum.

The Hadley Farm Museum is located at the intersection of Routes 9 and 47 in Hadley (behind the town hall and Congregational church). This 1780s barn, built by Charles Phelps, was moved (not taken apart, but literally lifted up and moved) in the 20th century from the site of the PPH museum to its current location. James Huntington, owner of the house and first director of the museum, needed money and sold it. It's an amazing piece of 18th-century contstruction housing all kinds of farm equipment.

The Skinner Museum in South Hadley (51 College Street), owned and run by Mount Holyoke College, is an interesting cabinet-of-curiousities-type museum housed in an old Congregational church that came from one of the four Quabbin Towns. I thought it was Dana, but I read recently online that it came from Prescott. I'll have to double-check sometime by visiting and will amend this then.

The museum houses the collection of Joseph Skinner, a wealthy industrialist, whose family was prominent in the area in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. My grandfather had some interesting stories about him! Skinner traveled the world and amassed an interesting and eclectic array of goods. Everything from early American furniture to suits of armor to paraphernalia from Nazi Germany. It's definitely worth a visit.

There are a couple of buildings on the site of the Skinner Museum. I remember being told by one of the docents that one of the buildings holds Skinner's collection of birds, including a passenger pigeon (now extinct), but I've never been in there and so can't confirm.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum Adds Content to its Website

I was so happy to see recently that the Porter-Phelps-Huntington is working to make their website more robust by addind more content. It helps interested parties and potential visitors gain valuable insight into the significance of the house and the families that lived there for 200 years.

Most of the new content is being added to the Museum Online section of the site. Through several pages, you can read about the history of the site and family from the beginning until it became a house museum in the mid-20th century.

I can't wait to see what they add next. Well done!

Monday, August 10, 2009

100 Morgan Street, South Hadley

I'm going back a few years with this blog post (which is fine in a blog that deals a lot with history, right?) to discuss the sad fate of 100 Morgan Street in South Hadley. This house, built in 1750, was older than the town, having been constructed when South Hadley was still a part of Hadley. For 255 years this little colonial house existed, then, in the summer of 2005, it was torn down. Why? I never really understood why, to be honest. Yes, the house was in poor shape. I spoke to a member of the SH Historical Society about the house, and he seemed unhappy about the situation as well, but said that it was determined to be unliveable. Why? I didn't ask the question, so I don't really know. However, Mount Holyoke College owned the house before selling it to a developer who had no choice but to tear it down, I was told, so perhaps the college is to blame for not carrying out adequate maintenance. That would be a real shame.

Obviously, sometimes there is nothing to be done but tear down a dilapidated building, unless someone has the financial wherewithal to do a huge renovation. For this tiny house, unremarkable except for its great age (there were/are few buildings in the town older than it), demolition was apparently necessary. I think there is more to it than that, but I haven't any evidence, just what I saw when I examined the house myself. It wasn't collapsing!

I just hope some of its pieces were salvaged for use elsewhere. Especially the old doors, beams, and glass.

In the photos provided (interiors and exteriors that I shot shortly before it was torn down), you can see that the house really was just an ordinary-looking dwelling. Inside, it suffered some vandalism, it seems (see the hand prints, etc.). It was still 255 years old, though--no small feat!

Now there are two new houses on the house's lot. You'd never know it ever existed. So it goes sometimes...