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Apple Festival planned for Smith House on Sept. 24

Date: 9/13/2011

Sept. 14, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM —Apple pies, historic games and a peek into what life was like in the 18th century are all on the menu when the Agawam Historical Association hosts its second annual Apple Festival on Sept 24.

The free event, designed to showcase the association’s “treasure box” property, the Historic Thomas Smith House at 251 Northwest St. in Feeding Hills, will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. The rain date for the mostly outdoor festivities is Sept. 25.

“We had a very successful [festival] last year [and] we had a great pie baking contest,” Judith Anderson, project coordinator for the Thomas Smith House, told Reminder Publications.

She said bakers interested in showing off their skills at the festival will find an application for the pie contest online at, along with a contact phone number for more information.

She’s also hoping visitors of all ages will come to enjoy fall-themed activities and tour the house, which was originally built in 1715.

“There will be 18th century games that children would play and we will be making corn husk dolls with the kids,” Anderson said. “We’re hoping to have a cider making demonstration, we’ll be selling apples and there will be a hearth cooking demonstration.”

Purchased by the association from an estate approximately seven years ago, Anderson called the Thomas Smith House “an amazing feat of architecture” that has remained basically undisturbed while a modern suburban community grew up around it.

“People lived in it up until the 1950s, but they were of meager means and were not able to update [it], so the integrity of the house remained,” Anderson said. “There were original latches and doors ... they would cover [older] things up rather than tear them out.”

She said basic electrical wiring was added in some rooms in the 1940s and a rudimentary bathroom replaced an indoor privy in an attached 18th century barn in the 1950s, but the home still has “no running water and no central heating.”

All the fireplace hearths are also original, and still in working order, she added.

The association’s restoration efforts, which Anderson said were funded through Community Preservation Act grants, concentrated on preserving the home’s historic aspects in a manner that shows how residents made minor modernizations as the years passed.

The association recently installed a handicapped accessible bathroom and ramp, making the property accessible to all visitors.

“We have our own Sturbridge Village in our own back yard,” Anderson said, noting that the house stands on land originally given to housewright Matthew Noble by by Springfield’s founder William Pynchon.

She said the association is hoping to get involved with the school system and utilize the property, which offers monthly hands-on demonstrations of various aspects of 18th century life from April through October, as an educational tool for school children in the future.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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