What’s New at WDS – July 29, 2020

Everyday Living at WDS

Did you know one of the most beloved education programs at WDS relates to the book, “The Witch of Blackbird Pond?” Elizabeth George Speare, a resident of Wethersfield, used the decidedly medieval-looking Buttolph-Williams House (c. 1711) as the setting for this 1959 Newbery Medal winner. Every year hundreds of school children who have read the book take this memorable tour.

This timeless classic explores ignorance, slavery, prejudice, and superstition and resonates with any child ever been bullied or singled out for being “different.” It tells the story of Kit, a newly orphaned young woman from Barbados, who arrives unannounced to live with relatives in Wethersfield. Considered an outsider, and different from other girls, she befriends the kind, elderly Hannah Tupper, who had been outlawed from the Massachusetts Colony for being a Quaker. As fellow outcasts, Kit and Hannah develop a deep bond, even after her uncle forbids the friendship. When a mob gathers to kill Hannah, the book becomes a tale of witchcraft and adventure, with honor, and the heroine, winning in the end.

The map you see here was crafted in 2009 by WDS guide and Wethersfield artist Phil Lohman. Former Wethersfield Town Librarian Laurel Goodgion asked Phil to create a map illustrating the locations of events in “The Witch of Blackbird Pond.” Always one for a good, creative project, Phil put together this “fantastic” (in the most literal sense of the word) bit of cartography. Since then the map has been reprinted many times. It is sold at the Wethersfield Historical Society and Wethersfield Library and will be sold in the WDS Gift Shop when it reopens.

Collections A-Z – “O” is for Overshot!

Overshot…now there’s a word you don’t hear every day. Not to be confused with military terminology, as in “the artillery overshot the target,” for our purposes overshot refers to a type of weaving that became popular in America in the early 19th century. Curator Rich Malley explains that the term is frequently associated with coverlets in which a wool weft (usually dyed indigo blue) covers—overshoots—plain woven undyed cotton. This weft typically incorporates a geometric design, resulting in a visually striking coverlet. Overshot weaving had the advantage of simplicity, requiring only a relatively simple four-harness loom, so many were made in the home. The WDS collection includes several examples, one of which can be seen in the Stevens House.

Development of the more complex jacquard loom in the 1820s enabled such coverlets to be commercially, and with more varied design motifs. In portions of Appalachia, however, the tradition of hand weaving overshot coverlets continued into the early 1900s. Interestingly, Malley’s grandfather and great uncle were jacquard weavers for the Bigelow Carpet Company in Thompsonville, CT in the early 20th century.

Around the Grounds

In this week’s Around the Grounds, Dick invites us to follow the red brick road…! In the first two photos, the red-brick walkway inside the stone wall leads from the path by the sundial, down the brownstone steps, and past the windows of the library to the west entrance. The third photo shows the construction fences having been removed and initial grading of soil has taken place all around the new 8,000 sq. ft. Education and Visitors Center! This area will later be seeded to blend in with the rest of the lawn leading back to the Webb Barn.