Step Back in Time in Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Have you ever noticed that the older you get, the more you like old things?   I don't think this only applies to me, but as I age I've developed an appreciation and passion for things that are older than me.  It doesn't matter if it's an artifact such as an old milk pitcher or an old building......I'm still enamored with it.  One of my favorite places to visit where I can be surrounded by beautiful old things is Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Founded in 1952, Historic Deerfield is an outdoor museum that focuses on the history and culture of the Connecticut River Valley and early New England.   The museum sits on Old Main Street, and is based on a 330-year-old, mile-long street situated along the Connecticut River in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts.  "First settled in 1669, Deerfield is one of the few towns settled by English colonists along the eastern seaboard that retains its original scale and town plan. Visitors are offered guided and self-guided tours of 12 antique houses ranging in age from 1730 to 1850. Eleven of these houses are on their original sites." (Taken from

In addition to being able to tour the magnificent homes that line Old Main Street, visitors are able to enjoy a delicious lunch or spend the night at the popular 1884 Old Deerfield Inn.  Although we have visited many times, we have never toured any of the homes.  I seem to spend all my time photographing the beautiful exteriors of these old masterpieces.  The museum also holds events and activities throughout the year.   My favorite time to visit is in the fall, but I can imagine this quaint village looks picture perfect snow covered too.  Here's a little peak at some of the homes...

Stebbins House - Built in 1799, the Asa Stebbins House features Federal period architecture, wall treatments, and decorative arts. It was the first brick house in Deerfield.
Stebbins House - side view
Visitor Center at Hall Tavern was originally built in 1760 in Charlemont, Massachusetts (about 20 miles west of Deerfield), and a ballroom wing was added around 1800. 
William's House - Originally constructed in 1730, the Hinsdale and Anna Williams House was extensively renovated to its present appearance in 1816. Ebenezer Hinsdale Williams, a landowner and farmer, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, educated at Harvard College, and later moved to Deerfield, his mother’s native village. Williams, his wife Anna, and their two teenage children lived in a splendid Federal-style house until his death in 1838.
Dwight House - Built ca. 1754 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Dwight House was moved to Deerfield in 1950 when it was threatened with demolition. The museum’s founders, Henry and Helen Flynt, had the house dismantled and brought 35 miles north to Deerfield where it became one of only four houses along The Street that were not here originally.
Allen House - Henry and Helen Flynt of Greenwich, Connecticut, purchased and restored numerous houses along Deerfield’s Street between 1942 and 1962.  Built in 1734, and renovated in 1945, the Allen House served as their residence while they stayed in Deerfield.  The evolution of the Flynts from their origins as Deerfield Academy parents to museum founders in 1952 is interpreted. 

 Aside from the twelve museum homes on display, the entire village is dotted with one beautiful building after another.  Here's a sampling...

 Another interesting piece of Deerfield is the Old Burying Ground which is open to the public during daylight hours, and offers a wealth of information about the early settlers of the area.  It is owned and operated by the Town of Deerfield, Massachusetts.

From historic buildings to burial grounds, Historic Deerfield is filled with history, but it is also filled with activity and youth.  Just on the edge of the Old Burying Ground sits the Deerfield Academy. Founded in 1797, the Academy is an independent, college preparatory, co-ed boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12, and an optional post-graduate year.  I am infatuated with Deerfield Academy.  As you walk or drive through the school's property, the walkways are dotted with preppy handsome young men in khaki's and blazers and young ladies in dresses.  Although there are some more modern dormitories, many of the buildings on campus are quite old and charming.  Students at Deerfield come from 42 states and 32 countries.   Current enrollment is about 638 students, 69 of which are day students.  Tuition at Deerfield might set your budget back a bit.....For the 2014-2015 school year: Boarding $54,720; Day: $39,220. Additional Fees: Health Center, Boarding $465 (Day $190), Textbooks & Academic Services, $1,060, Technology, $795.  In case you're wondering who goes to Deerfield, let me tell you that Deerfield alumni include King Abdullah (King of Jordan), Jeffrey L. Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, Sarah Groff, Triathlete and US Olympian and.....Season 11 Bachelorette Contestant Ian Thomson attended Deerfield and, later, Princeton. He left the ABC network show in Week 6 after calling Kaitlyn “a surface level person".   Somehow we always visit Deerfield in the fall and by chance, always on Deerfield Academy's Parent Weekend.  As we enjoy our lunch at the Deerfield Inn, we find ourselves rubbing elbows with parents and students of Deerfield Academy and I'm always wishing I could hear their stories of what it's like attending such a prestigious institute.
If you find yourself as smitten with this historical scene as I am, consider a drive to Deerfield.  It's a beautiful day trip destination, just about 2 1/2 hrs from the Capital Region.   Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and the Yankee Candle Flagship Store are just a few miles down the road.  But while you're in Deerfield, don't miss a chance to have lunch at Champney's in the Deerfield Inn, which also offers beautiful period accommodations.  Coming up in December, Deerfield has all sorts of holiday events scheduled.  Plan a visit soon!
To get a better look at the architectural details around Deerfield, check out my Facebook page ( for an album of windows, doors and details, too many to include in this blog.  For more information on Deerfield, use the links provided below.  Information for this blog was obtained using these sources.
Stay tuned as my next series in this blog will be featuring some of your favorite shops as they help prepare us for the Christmas season.  I promise you won't want to miss them!  Thanks for reading and come back soon to Life As I See It.

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