Roxbury turning back clock for turn of the century event
Air-conditioned museums may be interesting for an hour or two, but to really get a feel for times gone by, it’s much more fun to try your hand at some of the skills and crafts that your great-great-grandparents would have used every day.
Come to Roxbury during Turn of the Century Days over Labor Day weekend and you can learn how to spin wool into yarn, weave at a hand loom, cane a chair, weave an Adirondack-style “pack” basket, and hew wood beams. During Saturday’s house tours, you can step inside a 19th-century home where the layout and furnishings still reflect the culture and habits of 100 years ago.
Workshops that weekend include chair caning and rushing and basket-weaving by Martha Bremer, a master weaver from Otego’s Briar Creek Basketry. A teacher whose work has been exhibited throughout New York, Bremer’s specialty is restoring furniture, especially cane, rush, wicker and splint work to repair chair seating.
Can you tell your sheep wool from alpaca? How about rabbit “wool?” Local weaver and “spinstress” Tabitha Gilmore-Barnes will be weaving away both days that weekend, with her brilliantly colored collection of natural wools and yarns and selection of woven goods, everything from placemats and runners to cat toys and wearables. Tabitha will be in the Children’s Tent in Kirkside Park, with fun and fuzzy hands-on demonstrations and actual looms for the children to ply on both Saturday and Sunday.
Local woodworker Wayne Ford will also be in the park with some “hewing” friends, demonstrating the old-style planes and woodworking tools once so essential to building and furniture-making.
Other local crafts and homemade provisioners, like Deb Bauer of Locust Grove Soaps, will be happy to talk about the basic techniques behind their hand-crafted goods. (Well, some Rotary ladies may not be wild about sharing their great-grandmother’s secret apple pie recipes!) And master artist Deborah O’Connor will make an heirloom silhouette portrait of you (or your pet!) in less than 10 minutes, snip, snip.
You can also immerse yourself in 19th-century life with a rare peek inside some of Roxbury’s most distinguished Victorian grande dames and humble farmhouses, where original detail and structure have been preserved and where local student docents can show you how those architectural details reveal the everyday patterns of life and customs 100 years ago.
Some denizens of late 19th-century life will be popping up to speak for themselves, including John Burroughs, Susan B. Anthony and noisy young suffragists, out marching for their right to vote. You might even get to meet Helen Gould Shepard, the daughter of railroad baron Jay Gould, who was one of Roxbury’s most generous patron-citizens at the turn of the century. And don’t leave town without joining the panoramic Community Portrait on Saturday, Aug. 30 (19th-century dress required) or having your own “vintage” family portrait taken on Sunday, Aug. 31.
Learn all about what’s on offer for Turn of the Century Days, including schedules and contact information, at www.roxburyny.com. Admission to most events is free. You can also arrange to “get dressed” for the occasion in vintage wear by contacting the Roxbury Parks Department at 607 326-3722, where costumers are standing by with your petticoats and spats.