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Stepping Back in Time With the Plymouth Antiquarian Society

By S. Mathur

Sometimes it's the simple things - everyday objects like a butter churn or a dolls house - that open a window into the past and give us a glimpse of how life might have been lived hundreds of years ago. Visitors to the three historic houses maintained by the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, dating back to the 17th century, have an opportunity to step back in time with guided tours through formative periods in American history. The houses are open to visitors from June through August.

Executive Director Anne Reilly says that "The historic houses tell the story of everyday life in Plymouth from the mid-1600s to the present, with period rooms featuring early American furnishings and domestic artifacts- everything from teapots to toys. The Society also holds especially significant textile collection, including clothing and dress accessories dating from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century, which are used as the basis for special exhibits and programs."

The Harlow Old Fort House dates back to 1677 and was built with materials from the Pilgrim's fort-house on Burial Hill. It is one of the few 17th century buildings remaining in Plymouth. The Spooner House was built in 1749, and was home to a merchant family for more than two hundred years. Its first resident was Deacon Ephraim Spooner, a successful merchant who played an important part in the American Revolution. The 1809 Hedge House, built by a sea captain, is a fine example of Federal period architecture and is the Society's flagship. Another historic site maintained by the Plymouth Antiquarian Society is the Sacrifice Rock, an ancient Native American site.

Many of the educational programs are hands-on and Dr. Reilly says that "Visitors will discover the richness of four centuries of life in the Plymouth community through object-based explorations. Our educational programs include hands-on activities like candle dipping and spinning." The gardens - the Rose T. Briggs Memorial Garden at Hedge House and a "secret garden" behind the Spooner House - are also very popular with visitors.

As well as the historic house tours, the Society in partnership with Pilgrim Hall Museum offers free tours of Burial Hill, the historic burial ground in Plymouth, with expert guides and historians. The accompanying History in Progress talks cover such subjects as African Americans of Plymouth, Founding Women of Burial Hill, and the History of Agriculture and Aquaculture along the South Shore. The Burial Hill tours take place on the first Saturday of every month, excepting January.

A favorite event, says Dr. Reilly, is "Our annual Pilgrim Breakfast at the Harlow Old Fort House is a favorite local tradition (to be held this year on Sunday, July 3). Costumed servers dish out piping hot fishcakes, baked beans, cornbread and other tasty fare, while strolling singers share 17th-century songs." The Society is preparing for two important anniversaries in the near future. In 2019, the Society will celebrate its centennial. And the year 2020 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the settlement at Plymouth, which was a momentous event in American history.

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