Thursday Doors – Storrowton Village


Jos. Clark & Son Blacksmith

A couple of weeks ago I shared the doors from the Avenue of States at the Big-E. I’m not going to go back through all the details about the Big-E, 5th largest state agricultural fair, all six New England states, blah, blah, blah. What I didn’t share was the fact that on the other side of the Avenue of States is a unique attraction, and more than a few doors.

My favorite, the door at the right, is on the blacksmith shop of Jos. Clark & Son from Chesterfield, MA.

That address is important. The Eastern States Exhibition Grounds are located in West Springfield, MA, which is about 25 miles southeast of Chesterfield. Another mystery? No, this is easy to explain.

Almost 100 years ago, Helen Storrow, bought the blacksmith shop and had it reconstructed on the grounds of The Eastern States. The “smithy” as it is properly called, sits at the outskirts of Storrowton Village.

Helen Storrow was a philanthropist in the early 1900’s. She was involved with the Woman’s Suffrage movement, the Girls Scouts and many other movements and organizations. She was put in charge of “The Home Department” at Eastern States and she decided that she wanted to establish an example of an early American settlement to help emigrants, among others, to learn about New England history. Between 1927 and 1930, she purchased nine buildings from cities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and had them moved and reconstructed on a “town green” inside the exhibition grounds. The cost, in 1927, was almost $500,000!

Today, Storrowton Village is an active living history museum that is open year-round on the exhibition grounds. The village is used for education for school groups and tourists. The Inn is an operational restaurant serving diners and hosting events for parties as large as 400 people. You can attend blacksmith classes at the smithy, attend broom making classes and you can even attend reenacted classes in the one-room school. In addition, 50-60 couples get married in the Meeting House every year.

Helen’s concept, design and experience were shared with others, including the family that started Old Sturbridge Village. You can take a virtual tour of Storrowton Village here, and you can learn even more about the history here.

The photos featured in the gallery today were all taken at Storrowton Village, the same day in January when I took the photos of the state buildings. During the spring, summer and certainly during the Big-E in September, the grounds are much more colorful. The buildings are open and over 100 volunteers in period costumes are available to show, demonstrate and explain these wonderful buildings.

This post is part of the ongoing and fascinating series by Norm Frampton called Thursday Doors. If you want to join us door addicts, snag a photo of a door, visit Norm’s page before noon on Saturday and click the blue linky thing.

Posted in History, New England Life, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , | 61 Comments

One-Liner Wednesday – Time

We have now entered the phase of chug it or chuck it

The flight attendants on Southwest always try to make their instructions and announcements a little more fun than the larger stuffy airlines. This was our flight attendant’s way of telling us that she and her crew were coming through the cabin to collect our drink cups and empty peanut bags.

After a busy few days on the road, this little but of levity was a very nice touch.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday series.

Posted in Humor, One Line Wed, Travel | Tagged , , , | 37 Comments

Is the Office Open?


Snow sticking to a small Dogwood

That’s the grown-up equivalent of “are we there yet?

Last Friday, we had a snow storm in Connecticut. Actually, we had a forecast of 3-5” (for my overseas readers, “ stands for inches which would be 7.62 – 12.7 cm) of snow. That’s really not much snow for a New England state. I’m not sure I should use the S-word (storm). I don’t want to pull the old-guy card, but when I was a kid, they wouldn’t even had closed school for the possibility of 3-5” of snow, ending at 1:00 pm. My dad would have said:

It will be over before you come home and you’ll have plenty of time to shovel the driveway before dinner.”

As for work, I grew up working for companies that would say: “we’ll close the office if the Governor closes the State.”

In 1982, we got a freak snow storm in early April. It started snowing hard in the afternoon. The managing partner of our office got on the intercom… (Before cell phones and text messages, we used to have speakers in the ceiling and people could say something to the whole office. Yes, I know, quaint). He got on the intercom and said:

While we are letting employees leave early today, the smart thing to do would be to work late and wait out the storm.”

Six hours and 14” (35.56 cm) of snow later, he ended up springing for a bunch of hotel rooms and rumor had it that he replaced a few pairs of high heeled shoes. I threw caution to the wind and left right after his announcement. I was driving a Triumph Spitfire at the time, with four whole inches of ground clearance. I barely made it into the parking lot of my apartment building.

Although it’s a funny story in our house, (my wife worked for that same accounting firm), the decision to close the office, open the office late, let people work from home, crawl out of our holes and see our shadows or not, is never easy.

For reasons I won’t bore you with, the decision whether or not to close the office on Friday, was mine to make. I decided to ignore the weather and leave the “the office will be open during normal business hours today” message behind the voicemail/website/iPhone App versions of “Office Status.” I recorded that message, and I’m reasonably sure that it’s the sound that I make that frustrates more people than anything.

There once was a time when a melodious: “it’s a brand new day” frustrated my daughter enough to outweigh the combined frustration of 30 people who don’t want to drive in the snow, but those days are long gone. She now works for a company that closes when the Governor closes the State.


Our weather forecast.

Personally, I like snow, and 3-5” is a great amount. It’s enough to justify firing up my snow blower, but is not enough to force me to run it at a low speed. When I think back on shoveling snow as a child, I feel guilty about owning this machine. My father didn’t buy snow shovels. He and my brother and I used coal shovels to move the snow around. Those things were heavier when empty than a snow shovel is filled with snow. By contrast, my snow blower is outfitted with a storm cab to keep the discharged snow from blowing back on me, track drive that goes through anything, a headlight in case I’m out early and a cup holder for my coffee.

My daughter drove to work on Friday. She has a short commute, but in Connecticut, any distance in the snow can be treacherous because…hmm, let’s see, how should I say this…Oh, right, people are idiots! Since we haven’t had much snow, most people in the state forgot how to drive in it. Some still want to go 65 mph, even though the traffic in front of them is going 20. Some want to go 15 mph even though the road ahead is merely wet. Some have cleared their entire car of snow, while others carved out tiny portholes in the snow on their windshield. Some quake with fear at the mere thought of driving in snow and others can’t wait to get out there. My daughter might be in that last group. That might be my fault.

When she was young, I owned a Dodge 4-wheel-drive pickup. It was large and red and it had large tires with aggressive tread. I could easily drive that truck through 12” of snow without worry. If we were lucky enough to get a lot of snow overnight on a weekend, we would get up early and go for a ride: “before the plows ruin it” as we were known to say. We would drive to a town park with a steep narrow driveway leading down to an unplowed parking lot in which we could do donuts (spin the truck wildly in circles – that’s for Sharukh, who lives in India). The park had a back way out through the woods which was perfect.

On Friday, we ended up with about 8” of snow, and we closed the office early to let people struggle with the ride home that was also threatened by snow.

If you haven’t see a snow plow at work, the video below shows a small one.

Posted in New England Life, Photography | Tagged , , , , , | 77 Comments

My Poor Finger


From 2010 – Don’t worry

I’m not sure you know, or care to know how I handle my Saturday posts. Those conversations at the bar, they take a while to write. The more or less normal posts, like “Hand Crafted” are also planned pretty far in advance. When I don’t have something in the on-deck circle, I turn to Linda and her SoCS prompt. Before I get to Linda, I have to acknowledge my readers in other countries and my readers in this country that don’t follow baseball. I was reminded this week in some comments, that some of my phrases are uniquely American. I’ve used “on-deck circle” before, and I’ve received questions. In baseball, the batter in the on-deck circle is the next batter up. After the guy standing at the plate taking pitches.

So, why not just say “when I don’t have a post ready”? Well, I could do that, but Linda says that SoCS posts shouldn’t be edited. They should be, you know, a stream of consciousness, so you, the poor reader, have to follow the blabbering voices in my head, and they chose on-deck circle.

socs-badge-2015Back to Linda. So, here I was, comfortably working for a living, secure in the thought that at some point on Friday, Linda would deliver the Friday SoCS prompt. Then this happened:

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “finger.”  Use it any way you’d like. Have fun!

Really? Finger? Linda, I just have to ask…On second thought, I’m not going to ask. This is one of those words that can go too many places, and not many of them are all that good.

Fortunately for me, I have a finger with a history and, if my finger could talk, it would say: “How about turning that spotlight on me?

The finger under the lamp? My left index finger. This poor guy has suffered mightily playing second fiddle to his counterpart on the right hand. It’s easy to understand, I’m right-handed. My left hand holds things. My right hand swings the hammer, pulls the knife and holds the torch. My left hand guides things. My right hand pushes the board through the tool. I’m not sure why this particular finger is my favorite target, but a brief history of left-index-finger incidents should suffice to convince you that it’s true.

Hammer-Tacker – A hammer-tacker is a stapler that you swing like a hammer. It’s great for tacking up those 10 foot tall continuous strips of Tyvek on a wall under construction. Left hand holds the Tyvek, right hand swings the hammer-tacker. Occasionally, the stapler mechanism doesn’t work properly and the staple is left half in and half out. The engineers who designed this tool knew this would happen. You simply turn the tool over and smack that staple again. I did this a few times every day while residing our house. One time, I missed the staple. I saw the hammer-end of the hammer-tacker covering my left index finger and I saw a circle of blood spurts all around the business end of that tool. I actually had enough time to think “whoa, that – is – gonna – hurt.”

Regular hammer – Yeah, just substitute “nail” for staple and “hammer” for hammer-tacker and you have the image of a series of smacks resulting in blood blisters, split finger nails and blood, always blood.

Utility knife – I am always, always, always, always, very careful with utility knives because they are very, very sharp. But, sometimes, you have to hold a very small thing while you try to make it just a little bit smaller. Sometimes, the thing you make a little smaller is your left-index-finger.

Speaking of smaller, my left-index-finger is smaller than its right-hand brother. That’s not a left-right thing. That’s not a malnutrition thing. No, it’s the result of running the left finger though the spinning blade of my table saw. A very talented young woman in the ER was able to stitch the pieces back together, but there was some material missing.

My poor finger still works. I can type with it, I can activate the button-thingies on my phone and if we still had a rotary-dial phone, I could dial a phone with it. OK, that’s not true. First, we actually do have a rotary dial phone. It’s a Princess phone and I bought it at an antique store for my wife for Mother’s Day. Yes, I am that romantic. Second, I cannot dial with this finger. Several years after having it reassembled, I can’t stand to apply pressure to the end of this finger. For those of you long-time followers, this is the finger that previously appeared in SoCS in the whipped-blood incident. ‘nuff said.

Posted in DIY, Home Repair, SoCS | Tagged , , , , | 75 Comments

Thursday Doors – Captain Benjamin Allyn II House

Allyn House

Allyn House

Are you ready to see a 346 year old door? Um, how about a 256 year old door? Confused? Yeah, so am I. So are a lot of people, including the National Register of Historic Places.

I drive by this house every time that traffic on I-84 West is a mess around 3:45 pm. That’s just about every day now that the State of Connecticut has decided to start messing with access from Rt-2W to I-84W. This forces me to take I-84 East to cross the river in Windsor. By the time I make it across the river, I’m fed up with highways and I exit into the Deerfield section of Windsor. I drove by this house and I noticed that the sign near the door says 1670 – That’s old! Of course, I knew I had to submit it for Norm’s Thursday Doors series.

I snapped a few photos from the road. I’m not sure if the house is occupied at this time, but I’m always a little reluctant to get too close when photographing private residences. The good thing about historic houses, especially the ones in Windsor, Connecticut, is that it’s easy to conduct some research. Well, that’s how it usually goes. This time, that’s where things sort of went off the rails.

Allyn House

That seems clear

The marker on the door clearly says “Built by Capt. Thomas Allyn in 1670.” The Historic Buildings of Connecticut website says that the house was built by Benjamin Allyn II, in 1760. Benjamin was a descendent of Thomas. The Windsor Historic Society list of historic buildings says the house was built in 1670, possibly 1690 by Thomas Allyn. Finally, the National Register of Historic Places lists the house as being the Captain Benjamin Allyn House 2nd, and /or The Captain Thomas Allyn House, and, as shown above, lists two possible dates.

Allyn House

Hmm, this is not so clear.

The controversy stems from a series of four iron tie rods that connect the internal wood framing to the brick façade. The tie rods had iron numbers at the end. The outer two rods have the numerals ‘1’ and ‘0’ attached. The center two rods no longer have numerals attached, but there is widespread agreement that the numerals that were there were a ‘6’ and a ‘7’. So, 1670 or 1760. I’m not sure where the Windsor Historic Society came up with a possible 1690.

The hard evidence, such that it is, points to 1760 as the better choice. The bricks are similar to bricks made in Windsor, by Thomas Eggelston who was born in 1741. He would have been a pretty young brick maker, but the story is plausible because the bricks are consistent with the bricks he made. Windsor was a center of early brickmaking, and brick manufacturing plants still operate on the east side of the Connecticut River in South Windsor.

Allyn House

‘X’ marks the spot

For those trying to follow this, there’s a confusing element that you need to understand. Windsor is on the west side of the Connecticut River. South Windsor is directly across the river on the east side. The town of East Windsor is north of South Windsor. I hope that clears things up.

The owner of the house says that stains on the brick indicate the date was 1670. A historian (Stiles) wrote a history of the buildings in Windsor in 1859. He is the one making the association with the bricks and he is the first to suggest that the date was 1760. There was a similar house in West Springfield, MA (about 20 miles north of Windsor) that was built in 1758.

The problem with making a comparison to a similar house is the fact that the Allyn house was remodeled extensively from its original form and again after damage from the 1938 hurricane. Throughout the life of this house, people didn’t keep very many documents to serve as records. Deb, over at the Front Door Project recently mentioned similar issues with documentation associated with The Sarah Whitman Hooker House in West Hartford, CT. I guess the builders and owners of these houses never considered that the houses would stand so long and become so important.

256 years isn’t nearly as long as 346 years, but, if the door is original, it’s powerfully old. The door and the narrow sidelights are very impressive, and I’m pretty happy to add them to Norm’s collection. You can check out the other doors this week by visiting Norm’s page.

Posted in Connecticut, History, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , | 75 Comments

One-Liner Wednesday – Outside

Timothy Leary’s dead
No, no, no, no, He’s outside looking in

– Moody Blues

This is the cover art for the album In Search of the Lost Chord

This is the cover art for the album In Search of the Lost Chord

On Sunday morning, I was listening to NPR when they started talking about the Iowa Caucuses and I kinda lost it. I can’t listen to any more politicians or political analysts. It’s just so much of the same stuff. I reached in the console and I took a CD and shoved it in the slot. For the next 8 months, plus a couple of months of post-election analysis, I’m done with radio. I may tune in on the hour, for a bit of news, but I’m done listening to politics.

Ironically, the CD I popped in was a mix-CD I made several years ago featuring some of my favorite Moody Blues songs. It occurred to me that this is perfect for an election year. These guys running for office are trying to take us on a trip, trying to get us to forget reality, forget that they aren’t running for emperor and that they wouldn’t even be empowered to do half the stuff they’re promising us. For all I know, some of them are on drugs. One thing is certain, come November, most of these guys, people, candidates are going to be outside, looking in.

If you aren’t familiar with the Moody Blues, they were are (they have tour dates in 2016) a British Rock band with a unique and complex sound, mixing blues, rock and classical music with some very interesting lyrics. You can read more about them here. If you want to hear this song, you should know that the title is: “Legend of a Mind” not “Timothy Leary’s Dead” (as labeled on my CD) and you can listen to it here.

If you aren’t familiar with Timothy Leary, oh, where to start. Harvard professor. Thought that LSD could possibly have use as in psychiatric treatments. Famous for using LSD and advocating its use. Arrested. A lot. Well, read more about him here.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday series. If you’re not familiar with that, please slip on over to her site and join the fun.

Posted in Music, One Line Wed, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

Marketing Minds at Work?

With so many people fighting for our discretionary income, you would think that nobody would ever have to write about bad marketing or bad customer service. Yet, every six months or so, both of those themes surface here at No Facilities. It’s not like I’m passionate about stamping out bad marketing. It’s not like I’m anti-marketing.

Note: Scott Adams (Dilbert) might be anti-marketing. We’re guessing that he had a bad relationship with a woman in marketing. Seriously, search on “Dilbert marketing” or just click on this link. See what I mean?

I am actually pro-marketing. Our daughter is a marketing professional, and I am one of those people who appreciates a good ad campaign or a good commercial.

On the other hand, I have a real problem with bad marketing and bad ideas. I see them and I wonder: how they made it through any sort of review process without someone saying: “what were you thinking?

Recently, GoDaddy changed the login screen for their web-based email access. They changed it from something that was very GoDaddy-ish to something that looked like, well, nothing. In fact, it looked so much like nothing that we thought that someone might have hacked GoDaddy and was trying to skim our password. The funny thing is, we were pretty sure it was the real site, because those evil-doers usually do a better job. Seriously, the new GoDaddy site wasn’t as good as what a hacker would have built.

I called GoDaddy customer service, and I had the most amazing conversation:

Hi, I’m calling because we seem to be getting a really odd looking login screen when we try to access your web-mail service.”

Yes, we’re in the process of changing that screen.”

The one that we get, doesn’t have any GoDaddy branding at all, it looks like it might be a scam.”

A lot of people have shared that complaint with us. I’ll let the developers know.”

A few days later, it went back to the old site. Then, late last week, GoDaddy added a “we’re changing this screen” message to the old site with an option to preview the new, ugly site. On the new site, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, to a section not normally visible in my browser, you see a tiny GoDaddy logo.

Maybe in next week’s Super Bowl ad, instead of Danica Patrick standing next to her black and green Indy car, GoDaddy will have an elderly man standing next to a white Buick. Maybe bland is the new sexy.

While I’m on a marketing bashing roll, let me share a few tips to the companies who are, at this very moment, trying to get my online attention:

To the folks at Starbucks and other coffee places, including those without a presence in New England:

My recent comments about Dunkin Donuts coffee do not indicate a general, exploitable interest in coffee. They indicate an interest in Dunkin Donuts coffee… period!

To my (former) car dealer:

The fact that I recently complained about the car I bought from you and the service you provided on that car, should not be taken to mean that this is a good time to try and sell me a new car. (Seriously, not only have I seen Google ads and ads on Facebook, these people actually called me to try and sell me a new car.)

To the marking knuckleheads at NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL headquarters:

Because the demographic information you’ve collected about me indicates that I live in New England doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Yankees, Giants, Bruins, Mets (the Mets? seriously?), Jets (unless they’re playing the Patriots), Islanders or the Knicks. I’m all Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. I don’t follow NBA basketball at all, but, If I did, I’d root for the Celtics – I’m not completely anti-Boston.

While I’m at it, to the college sports knuckleheads:

I graduated from West Virginia University and The University of Pittsburgh, you know, the former Big East teams. I am quite capable of living in Connecticut and not being a fan of UConn sports.

To Amazon, the king of online marketing and sales:

The stuff I searched for before Christmas has either been purchased or scratched from the list. That microwave I searched for last week, it was for the office. I was actually only looking for dimensions. I bought one at Target ‘cuz people couldn’t wait another day.”

To every online travel site:

The fact that I asked for directions to Washington, D.C. doesn’t mean I’m going there. It means a friend in India wanted to know how far last week’s epic snow storm was from Connecticut.

Last, to the marketing department at Sleepy’s:

Don’t wrap your ad around the Sunday comics if you ever hope to have me read it.

For a quick look at an ad that I think is good, click here to see Watson and Ken Jennings, or this one of Watson and Bob Dylan.

Posted in Humor, Marketing, Rant | Tagged , , , , , , , | 91 Comments