Don't miss Historic Deerfield this summer

Historic Deerfield guide Peter King shares the history of one of the museum's portraits during a tour of the Dwight House. Reminder Publications photo by Lori Szepelak
By Lori Szepelak


DEERFIELD As gas prices continue to inch up during the summer months, area residents should take note that the Pioneer Valley has a wealth of entertaining ways to pass the time.

For history buffs, Historic Deerfield on Old Main Street is one of those treasures that prides itself in preserving and interpreting the architecture, lifestyle and artifacts of a prosperous early New England town.

Heading into the summer vacation season, new attendance reports at Historic Deerfield through May show a 14 percent increase in total attendance from this same time last year.

"We're spotting an upward trend in overall attendance on 'The Street,'" Philip Zea, president of Historic Deerfield, said. "The steady growth is a good sign that people are reacting positively to the many daily offerings at Historic Deerfield."

Also on the rise are sales of Historic Deerfield memberships, which have risen 42 percent over the same period in 2007.

"With membership prices as low as $40 for an individual and $60 for a family, I think visitors are really recognizing the value of Historic Deerfield offerings," Zea added . "When you add up all the benefits including free admission for a year and discounts at the museum store it turns out to be a real bargain."

Historic Deerfield was incorporated in 1952 to sustain the work of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Flynt of Greenwich, Conn. In 1936, the Flynts enrolled their son at Deerfield Academy, a nationally known college prep school located in the center village of Deerfield. The Flynts were amazed at the remarkable, but fragile, state of preservation of the old village. With the encouragement of Deerfield Academy's Headmaster, Frank Boyden, they began to purchase the old houses along the street to carefully restore them.

Today, more than 25,000 objects made or used in America between 1650 and 1850 are displayed in 13 museum houses and the Flynt Center of Early New England Life.

Called the "gem of rural New England," the village and its museums and galleries are located within The Old Deerfield National Historic Landmark, a 1,000-plus acres of scenic vistas and rich, fertile land that has been farmed for centuries. For persons interested in local history or genealogy, stop by The Memorial Libraries which offers an extensive collection of books on material culture, decorative arts and New England history. Holdings of local account books, diaries and letters are also featured.

Zea noted that Historic Deerfield is considered a family friendly museum with many offerings for kids from eight to 80. In addition, the Children's History Workshop provides a variety of learning experiences, as well as a space where children and grown-ups can relax. Historic Deerfield also provides numerous daily offerings including family activities such as "Insect Investigations."

Current exhibitions also include "Into the Woods: Crafting Early American Furniture," "Clothes Make The Man: The Colonial Gentleman in New England," "Engraved Powder Horns from the French and Indian War and the American Revolution: The William H. Guthman Collection," and "Celebrating the Fiber Arts: The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery."

Special programs are also planned throughout the year and include "Summer Cooking" on July 5, 12, 19 and 26 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Hall Tavern Kitchen. Historic Deerfield's open hearth cooks will demonstrate how to make cooling beverages including lemonade and switchel (a drink made with molasses, ginger, sugar and water). Demonstrations will also include how people preserved summer vegetables like cucumbers and beets.

On July 10, Bruce Hoadley, professor of Building Materials and Wood Technology in the Department of Natural Resources Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will present the first of three free talks in the series "Seeing the Forest for the Trees: The History of New England Woodlands," at 7:30 p.m. at the Flynt Center of Early New England Life. The free lecture titled "Understanding Wood in Early American Furniture" is related to the new exhibition "Into the Woods." The series continues on July 17 with Jennifer L. Anderson, assistant professor of Atlantic History at the State University of New York Stony Brook, presenting "The Mahogany Connection: From American Rainforests to New England Parlors," and author Tom Whalen concludes the series on July 24 with "From Logs to Lumber: A History of People & Rule Making in New England."

For persons wishing to conclude their visit in style, the Deerfield Inn is an original, historic and traditional New England country inn that first opened its doors in 1884. Today, innkeepers Jane Howard and Karl Sabo offer guests 23 guest rooms, relaxed fine dining featuring creative American cuisine, and a convivial tavern.

Historic Deerfield is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum store is also open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Oct. 31, and until 4:30 p.m. the rest of the year.

"All of Deerfield" tickets are $14 for adults, $5 for ages six to 21, and under six and members are free. Single house tour tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for ages six to 21.

For more museum information and program schedules, visit or call 775-7214.