Deerfield Thanksgiving

I know that it was a back-to-big-family-Thanksgiving for many people, but because of health and almost-conflicting family events my husband and I found ourselves alone this year. We made a last-minute decision to head to Historic Deerfield, where we stayed at the Inn for two nights and had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner at the Inn at Boltwood (previously the Lord Jeffrey Inn) in Amherst. We ran into old Salem friends and made new Pennsylvania friends at the Deerfield bar, walked around and in as many of those magnificent houses as we could, and “played” in the attic of the Flynt Center for Early American Life. I have under-appreciated this experience on past visits: there was something about this particular visit that made the “visible storage” of all sorts of items from Historic Deerfield’s collections—everything from ceramics to muskets to wrought iron, in multiples—so very engaging. Maybe it’s because we had this “attic” to ourselves. My husband and I have very different tastes, but he could be over there in the realm of metal-working tools while I was lingering in mocha ware, both of us content. We left the attic only because the weather was so beautiful: clear and sunny and bright, casting all those Connecticut River Valley doorways in stark relief.

Historic Deerfield has always been an exploration of maker/craft culture as much as architecture so a focus on objects on this particular visit seemed correct: I’ve always been too dazzled by the houses to take in the Deerfield-made baskets, famous blue-and-white embroidery pieces and pottery to take proper note of them in situ. Before there was Historic Deerfield, there was Arts and Crafts Deerfield, a haven and destination for traditional crafts and preservation at the turn of the last century, and before then there was of course colonial Deerfield: you can see and feel the layers as you walk down Old Main Street. We had the neighborhood to ourselves as we took a long walk on Thanksgiving morning, so we looked in a lot of windows and hung out in back amongst the barns.

A walk down Old Main Street from South to North and then back towards the Inn: village map with house names and dates.

A recent addition to Old Main Street are the Witness Stone markers laid before every house in which an enslaved person live and worked: these were installed just last month in partnership with the Connecticut-based Witness Stones Project. So there’s another layer uncovered and exposed. Museum neighborhoods can feel a bit static and fixed in time, but I’ve never felt that way about Historic Deerfield: rather it has always seems like an engaging mix of past and present or a cumulative work in progress to me. At the same time, time moves slower there: just turn off Route 5 for an hour or a day or two and catch your breath, take a walk, or rummage around in an attic.

Witness (to slavery) stones, a work in progress, and a signpost right in the midst of Deerfield Academy.

9 responses to “Deerfield Thanksgiving

  • Helen Breen

    Hi Donna,

    What a lovely Thanksgiving in Deerfield, particularly with the great weather. Tell me, did you need that foot stool to climb onto their high beds? Part of the charm. We stayed there a few summers ago before a young man in our family entered Deerfield Academy. Really charming. Loved the doorways.

    Interesting about the Witness Stone Memorials in town. Also, I was struck by the plate 2020.3.1 and the one next to it celebrating the sugar plantation in the Caribbean. Just read a great book that I think you would like – THE RADICAL POTTER: The Life and Times of Josiah Wedgwood by Anthony Burton. Those super wealthy planters were among his most frequent customers for whom he created plates with similar motifs. Seems unbelievable today.

  • Carol J. Perry

    Thank you for sharing this delightful trip.

  • jane griswold radocchia

    Bennington placed its first Witness Stone this past summer: Margaret (Peg) Bowen. We know there were other people enslaved here, but we haven’t found their names – yet.
    We have names of enslaved who were on farms. A witness stone there would be seen only by the current inhabitants and friends. I am hoping we will find a notation of someone with a name at a mill or at church.

  • Lisa

    Thank you for this post. I have always been enamored with Deerfield. I love the unstudied unkempt look of the streets and houses. The photo of the yellow wallpaper made my heart sing. Highly recommend the book The Allen Sisters by Suzanne L. Flynn. Glad you had a lovely stay there.

  • Nancy Plante

    What a wonderful post! And I would love to visit that attic — maybe a springtime trip is in my future. I always love your blog– thank you for such enjoyable reading!

  • Donald R. Friary

    Dear Donna,

    I am glad that you liked The Museum’s Attic. I was inspired by the Beinecke Library at Yale in suggesting that to our architects.


  • Helen Breen

    Hi Donald, glad you chimed in. Hope all is well. We expect to return to Deerfield next summer. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: