Swift River Valley Historical Society reopens by appointment only

  • This is the interior of the Southworth Mills School in Greenwich, one of the four towns that was flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Contributed Photo/Swift River Valley Historical Society

  • Two hurricane lamps circa 1875 to 1880 with hand-cut prisms. They were used in the Swift River Hotel with long candles and given to the Swift River Valley Historical Society by Anne Clifford Loder. Contributed Photo/Swift River Valley Historical Society

  • This doll bed and quilt were made for the Martindale sisters — Martha Elizabeth, born in 1874, and Mary Diana, born in 1875 — who lived in Enfield, one of the towns that was flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Contributed Photo/Swift River Valley Historical Society

  • Swift River Valley Historical Society artifacts are stored in the former Prescott Church, a carriage house, at rear, and an old farmhouse, pictured in 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Walter Reynolds staffs the carriage house at the Swift River Valley Historical Society on Elm Street in New Salem in 2019. Behind him is a still-running fire engine from the disincorporated town of Dana. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A school classroom setting at the Swift River Valley Historical Society, pictured in 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • At the Swift River Valley Historical Society, each town has a room full of artifacts rescued from the flood. This is the Greenwich Room. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • North Dana’s 1929 Ford fire truck at a North Quabbin Cruisers show in August 2016. It is still operational and is housed in the Peirce Memorial Carriage Shed at the Swift River Valley Historical Society in New Salem. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 7/11/2021 6:00:25 PM

NEW SALEM — The Swift River Valley Historical Society has reopened to the public, though its operation in a pre-coronavirus world might be a thing of the past.

Administrative Assistant Dorothy “Dot” Frye explained the nonprofit opened on June 30 following a vote of its eight-member board of directors. The Historical Society, at 40 Elm St., has typically been open for tours on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons from June to September, but continued COVID-19 safety procedures mean it will now be open from 1 to 4 p.m. by appointment only.

“That’s all we’re doing is tours this year,” Frye said, adding that the Historical Society would normally host some wildlife programs, bus tours and concerts of the North Dana Vespers.

Frye said she had about 12 tour guides before the pandemic and that number has been whittled down to about six, with half the guides citing concerns over COVID-19 as their reason for not returning.

Frye said the organization conducted its first tour of 2021 on July 3. That tour involved two guests.

“We had to cut back on the number of people you can show the museum to at any one time,” she explained.

A tour of the Historical Society takes two hours, Frye said. The property consists of three buildings — the Prescott Museum, the Whitaker Clary House, and the barn and Peirce Memorial Carriage Shed.

The Prescott Museum was formerly a church in Prescott, one of the four towns that was flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The church was built in 1837 and spent its first 100 years on the Prescott Peninsula. It was taken apart board by board and moved to Orange to become the Prescott Historical Society following the town’s disincorporation. It was moved in one piece to its current spot in New Salem in 1986.

The building houses artifacts from Prescott, while the Whitaker Clary House contains items from Dana, Enfield and Greenwich — the other three disincorporated towns. The artifacts include quilts, artwork, clothing and home furnishings.

According to the Historical Society’s website, the Whitaker Clary House was built for William Whitaker on its current site in 1816. It is now the main museum building and was purchased from the Massachusetts District Commission (now known as the state Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Watershed Division) in 1961 for $1, plus $35 to process the deed.

The Peirce Memorial Carriage Shed was built in 1991 to house a large variety of tools, farming equipment and North Dana’s 1929 Ford fire truck. According to the Historical Society’s website, North Dana was the first town in the valley to have a motorized fire department. The carriage shed also contains a replica of the inside of an early schoolhouse.

The large barn on the Elm Street property, built circa 1850, is not currently being used, the website states.

Frye mentioned the Historical Society employs a part-time archivist. A climate-controlled environment for delicate materials was built in the church building.

Tour reservations can be made by emailing Frye at dotfryesrvhs@gmail.com or by calling the office at 978-544-6882 and leaving a message with your name and phone number. Masks will be required.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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