Don’t miss these treasures in the heart of Weston. Each museum is a sight to behold! Perfectly preserved to provide much more than a glimpse into life in the early nineteenth century, lose yourself and hear the sounds of those who built, lived and worked in Weston’s museums. Open to the public, these buildings are staffed and maintained solely by volunteers from Weston, a town that really cares about the preservation of Weston’s long and wonderful history. At the Farrar-Mansur House, your very friendly and knowledgeable hosts will tell you all you want to know about how cooking was done on wood fires in the fireplace, how rocking chairs were designed to help moms hold babies, how beds were warmed in winter using warm rocks and so much more. Learn about how so many “modern household conveniences” from back in the day were designed and constructed to serve a practical purpose from the materials at hand. At the Old Mill, you will see how a grist mill operated and how the power of water was harnessed to do many tough tasks! And lastly, be sure to visit the town’s first firehouse!
The Museums of Weston, Vermont
The Old Mill Museum
The first two buildings in the present Weston Village were built in 1780 by Ezekial Pease; a small dwelling and a sawmill on the banks of the West River. The original Mill burned in 1900 and was replaced by a one story structure. It was returned to its original, and present, configuration in 1936, at which time it was converted to a grist mill. In those years, the Mill was managed and operated by members of the Orton family. A small portion of the operation in those days was a mail order business of milled grain products. From that germ grew today’s Vermont Country Store.
Tighter health regulations enacted in the late 1950s forced the closure of many small country mills, including this one. Weston’s Mill became a museum. Visitors to the Mill can observe the working of one of very few functioning hydro-powered mills in New England, milling grain just as was done 75 years ago. The turbine that drives the Mill can be viewed, as can the intricate system of gears, pulleys and belts that transfer power to the grindstones. Milling demonstrations are given frequently when the museum is open.
A new water wheel, installed in 2011, is being made into an exhibit that will show how water power can converted to electrical energy. The second floor houses one of the finest collections of antique tools, large and small, in New England while, on the first floor, artisan tinsmith David Clagget pursues his craft and demonstrates his skill to visitors. The beautiful setting of the Mill, with trees, millpond and waterfall, is a favorite with photographers and picnickers, along with history buffs.
Captain Oliver Farrar, with his young bride, Polly, acquired Ezekiel Pease’s Mill and modest dwelling in 1795 and set out to build a more substantial homestead. By 1797 Oliver had completed the present structure which, in addition to living quarters for the Farrars, included a tavern room (operated by Polly), a ladies parlor and a second floor ballroom.
The Farrar family lived in the house until 1857, when it was sold to the Mansurs, who occupied it for three generations. In 1932 Frank Mansur – it was the Depression and he was delinquent in taxes – donated the building to the Community Club (now Association)) with the stipulation that it be restored and converted to a museum, which was done.
Today the Farrar-Mansur House Museum offers visitors a chance to experience a mid-nineteenth century Vermont homestead. Displayed in room settings, the museum’s extensive collection includes many fine pieces of New England furniture; outstanding examples of early 19th century, Vermont-made brass, copper, silver, pewter, and tin items; toys; musical instruments; china, pottery, and glassware; costumes, quilts and samplers; and significant 19th century portraits. The walls of the ladies parlor are now decorated with murals depicting Weston life in the 1830s. Restoration of Oliver’s ballroom, with intricate stenciling, has won recognition by the Vermont Historical Society.
This structure was built in the late nineteenth century – exact date unknown – and served as Weston’s first firehouse. In the 1920s, it served as Frank Mansur’s machine shop. It subsequently quartered a variety of Vermont craftspeople, assembled as the Vermont Guild of Old Time Crafts and Industries, hence its name.
Today the building is home to the red Concord coach used as a bandwagon by the Weston Cornet Band from 1880 to 1930. The coach is one of only two examples remaining.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BRYANT MEMORIAL ROOM
By Vrest Orton
To show my respect and affection for John and Maude Bryant, and to preserve the dignity and unique quality of the Bryant home, I arranged the John and Maude Memorial Room.
And upon this hangs a tale. John Bryant’s uncle took his wife, during their honeymoon, to the great 1876 Centennial Celebration—The World’s Fair at Philadelphia. This marvelous exposition was the undoubted epitome of the Victorian style in all its manifold and astonishing forms. A Michigan furniture maker contributed a bedroom set so the world might view their height of craftsmanship. This prize-winning furniture, hand carved of solid mahogany and Circassian walnut and embellished with all the fabulous elegance of the era, was purchased, I am told, for $ 900.00…a lot of money in 1876! The other, less ornate set later found a home in the Oyster Bay residence of President Theodore Roosevelt.
The bedroom set is now on exhibit here along with many of the things John and Maude cherished. We have tried to arrange the room in exactly the way they would have wanted it. On the walls hang the portraits of John’s uncle, D.D. Hutchins and his wife, Mary J. (who purchased the set originally) as well as pictures of John and Maude Bryant when they were young.
I believe in sentiment and a sense of history. I believe that good people who have lived good lives should always be remembered. My revival of my father’s store is, I trust, a kind of affectionate gesture to Leila and Gardner Lyman Orton, my mother and father, just as the Bryant House is, in its way, a tribute to and expression of my feeling for John and Maude Bryant.
Antique Vermont scales provide insight into the 19th Century Industrial Revolution. As Microsoft and Apple are to the 21st century, Fairbanks and Howe scales filled the application requirements of industry, medicine, science, merchants, miners, and agriculture. Assembled by Lyman Orton, the Vermont Scale Museum is located in The Vermont Country Store and features over 150 beautiful and fascinating mechanical devices that not only weighed but calculated, measured, tested, and converted an amazing array of data. The designs and materials used to make them combine for a visual wonder of craftsmanship from 1850 to 1950. A great place to park the husband when he tires of shopping!
The Museums of Weston offer a glimpse into Vermont village life in the early nineteenth century. The Farrar-Mansur House is filled with period local heirlooms in room settings. The adjacent Old Mill, with its fascinating collection of antique tools and machinery, is one of very few operating water-powered gristmills in the country. Both museums are open for tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from June 29 through October 13 and on Wednesday afternoons through September 11. To arrange special group tours, call 824-5294.