After two years, many hurdles, and lots of persistence, we finally have the green light to build our new archives center at Munroe Tavern!
The new archives center will be a barn-like structure built onto the back of Munroe Tavern, and will have three floors of usable space. The main floor will serve as exhibit space and a reading room, while the basement and upstairs will serve as storage space.
Our archives are currently housed in the basement of the Hancock-Clarke House. While this space is climate controlled and safe for the archives, it’s not handicap accessible and is not an ideal location for staff, volunteers, visitors, and researchers. It’s also not big enough.
Lexington Historical Society cares for documents, photographs, diaries, and letters, all of which serve as a window into the community’s past. If we don’t move the archives to a new building, we’ll no longer be able to accept new archival donations because the Hancock-Clarke basement is nearly maxed out. The new building will allow us to house our archives in an even better space, while still leaving room for more accessions.
Earlier this month, a team of archaeologists dug in the ground where the building will be located, but found nothing of significance (that’s a good thing!). We are scheduled to break ground for construction in early May, and expect to complete the project in late fall of 2018. Moving the archives will take a bit longer, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
For more information on this project, please visit http://www.lexingtonhistory.org/new-archives-center.html, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
To support the archives center with a financial contribution, please contact me at email@example.com or (781) 862-1703.
-Erica Dumont, Executive Director
Last summer, while helping our Archives Manager Elizabeth do some organizing and accessioning (adding an item to our collection), I came across a document from 1737. The history nerd in me always loves reading documents that are nearly 300 years old, but this one in particular caught my eye. A much later transcription of the document is below, but the gist of the original document describes a fight over a lemon. Say what?
To wit, "David Comee of Lexington . . . Innholder . . . saith that on ye [the] twenty fourth day of May . . . one James Croseby of Billerica . . . was at ye dwelling house of ye Complainant . . . and did there and then with force & violence take a Lemon from ye Complainant and Refused to Return it and was going away upon which ye Compt [Complainant] followed him out of his house and ye Sd [said] James Crosbee without any just provocation took up a stone & struck the Complainant on ye side of his head with ye Stone: bruised ye flesh, broke ye skin, forthed blood & wounded him sorely on ye head."
I'm sure the experience was very unpleasant for David Comee, but I confess I (and other staff) have giggled about this document many times since its discovery. The question remains, though. Why in the world did James Croseby/Crosbee need a lemon so badly?
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Growing up in the lovely Pennsylvania countryside, spring was always my favorite season and I recall very fondly the wonderful memories of the first days of spring. Spring remains my favorite season, but since joining Lexington Historical Society in March 2015 my mind has now begun to associate spring with different, somewhat unique rituals.
When I think of spring, my mind instantly brings to the forefront the smell of gunpowder on an early (and I mean early) April morning instead of the smell of blooming wildflowers. The banter of schoolchildren as they discuss what the Clarke family might have been having for dinner in 1775 as they participate in our “What Did Rev. Clarke Eat?” school program now greets my ears in place of the cries of newborn calves and sheep. The creaking floorboards in Buckman Tavern as our first visitors of the day begin to explore the rich history of Lexington have replaced the crack of bats during Little League games. Instead of welcoming the final weeks of the school year, spring now welcomes Buckman Tavern, Hancock-Clarke House and Munroe Tavern back to life after a sleepy and quiet winter. All three properties will be open in April (Buckman already is!) and can be visited during these hours.
However, my new favorite ritual of spring has become the Children’s Reenactment of the Battle of Lexington. Through a wonderful partnership with the Lexington Minute Men, Her Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot, the Lexington Visitor Center, and Lexington Historical Society, children are given the opportunity to not only learn about this important battle, but to also actively participate in a re-creation of the battle. Participants are sorted into camps (Militia or British Regular) and are drilled in 18th century military tactics by our wonderful volunteer reenactors. After sufficient drilling, it is time for the reenactment to start. With the joy, theatrics, and enthusiasm only children can bring to events, the Battle of Lexington unfolds before your eyes! Not only is it great to see children enjoying history so much, but occasionally you’ll get acting gems such as Thaddeus Bowman, a militia scout who informed Captain Parker the British had entered town, come running to the door of Buckman Tavern shouting “Captain Parker, Captain Parker!! I forgot my lines!” After the battle concludes, participants and parents are encouraged to converse with the reenactors and to view a collection of artifacts from Lexington Historical Society’s collection on display at the Lexington Visitor Center.
This year’s reenactment will be held on Wednesday April 18th and will feature a morning session as well as an afternoon session. Spots still remain open for both sessions and more information on the event can be found on the Children’s Battle Reenactment page.
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
“And so you, too, have ‘signed up’, and Dad is today putting out a service flag, with two stars, infront [sic] of the house. Am I sorry? You are both sound and healthy, readily passing the examinations. Am I proud of you? Would I have you do differently? Does it pull hard? You know all the answers but you have acted on your own initiative. It is not amiss to say that moral strength comes to him who stands up to his duty – men are made that way.”
It is with these words that Clara Laycock Hill began a letter to her son, Stanley Hill, on October 31, 1917, less than six months after he joined the American Field Service and just one month after he enlisted in the American Ambulance Field Service as a driver. The Hill family lived in Lexington, where Stanley and his older brother, Converse, both graduated from high school. Stanley went on to attend Dartmouth College as part of the Class of 1918, where he was known for his positive outlook on life and infectiously cheerful nature.
As recognition for his service during World War I, Stanley received the French Croix de Guerre with palm, which is an honor awarded to those who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces. He was also awarded the Medaille Militaire, an award of the French Republic given for meritorious service and acts of bravery in action against an enemy force. His military records cite him as being “a driver of remarkable bravery who always greatly distinguished himself at the most exposed first-aid stations. Although seriously wounded while crossing a heavily bombarded village he had the courage to place his ambulance and its occupants under shelter, not leaving them until the arrival of assistance.”
The serious injury cited in this report refers to Stanley being wounded in the forehead by a shell while driving his ambulance in the second battle of the Marne. It was thought that he would make a full recovery, and his brother wrote a letter home stating so. Unfortunately, Stanley contracted meningitis and died on August 14, 1918 at La Veuve Hospital in France. He was the first of eight war casualties from Lexington and was buried at the military cemetery in La Veuve, Marne, France.
In the fall of 2017, Stanley’s niece (Converse Hill’s daughter), Shirley Stolz, made a very generous and precious contribution to the Collections and Archives at the Historical Society: a small collection of photographs and personal papers related to Stanley, as well as his military medals. The Society also retains records related to the Stanley Hill Post, an American Legion Post active between 1934 and 1986. Please click here to visit our online collections and see the Stanley Hill items donated by Shirley Stolz.
On November 11, 2018, Lexington Historical Society will join with other organizations in Lexington to remember the 100th anniversary of World War I and to honor those young men and women from Lexington who fought and died in the Great War. Stanley Hill will be the face of these activities. Please keep an eye out to learn more about the programming and events surrounding this commemoration.
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
We are excited to announce that we have joined the North American Reciprocal Museum Association. The association, referred to as NARM, is one of the largest reciprocal membership programs in the world, with nearly 1,000 member institutions. These institutions span the entirety of North America, with members in the United States, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, and even Bermuda!
Not only is there geographic diversity within NARM members, there is also a wide range of interests covered by these institutions, from historical societies, to science museums and art museums. This means that no matter your interests or where your travels might take you, there will always be something new to see thanks to NARM.
Reciprocal membership benefits through NARM include entrance fees at member rates for all participating institutions (which makes many of them free!) as well as reduced prices for event tickets and shop purchases. Access to these benefits comes with the purchase of a Lexington Historical Society Contributor ($125) membership or above.
In Lexington alone, there are three participating institutions - Lexington Historical Society, Lexington Arts & Crafts Society, and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum. If those are too close to home, how about considering a trip to Providence to see the Rhode Island Historical Society’s John Brown House, or the RISD Museum of Art?
Going on a trip soon? Take your NARM benefits with you! Maybe you’re heading to Miami for some warm weather. While you’re there, get the member rate for admission at the Institute of Contemporary Art or the HistoryMiami Museum. How about a sightseeing trip to Washington, DC? If you want to avoid the crowds, there are a dozen member institutions in the city that are worth a visit.
My favorite, and maybe most out of the way destination in the continental United States might be the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colorado. If you venture past the ski resorts and end up in the beautiful mountains surrounding Leadville, stop by the museum for free admission to learn about the history of mining in America and tour a historic 19th century mine owned by Horace "Silver King" and Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor.
We are excited to bring these wonderful NARM benefits to our members. We know that our members are curious, adventurous, and hungry for knowledge, and we are honored to support that passion. These additional benefits provide an amazing opportunity to experience some wonderful institutions for reduced admission all because you are members with us, and we hope you take full advantage of them!
-Lina Rosenberg, Operations Manager and Archivist
Every year, we have a few thirsty folks wander into Buckman Tavern surprised to find that not only did colonial taverns need a liquor license to operate, but that ours expired in 1813! While we no longer serve food and drink on the regular, we do occasionally open the building for events, and one of our most popular is what we have dubbed “Tavern Night”. Once a year, we’ve opened one of our historic taverns after-hours and invited the public in for a night of history and fun. This year, we are having a talk and tasting of historically inspired beers, made with local plants, led by Emerson Baker of Salem State University and Butch Heilshorn of Earth Eagle Brewings in Portsmouth, NH.
It wouldn't be an 18th century party without food as well. A tavern like the Buckmans' would likely have served soups and stews to their visitors, which could stretch to feed a crowd. It’s hard to walk and eat soup, though, so for our event we are creating a spread of 18th century style appetizers that travel well. Hearty bread and cheese are obvious choices, as are pickled vegetables that would have been available in February in New England, having been jarred during the previous year’s harvest.
To further explore what sorts of foods we could serve at our gathering, I turned to the most popular cookbook of the 18th century: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse. First published in 1747, this book was in print for one hundred years, and went through several editions, including later versions featuring American recipes like indian pudding and cranberry tarts. As it turns out, Hannah has an entire chapter devoted to pickling! This is not surprising, as it was one of the easiest ways to preserve foods - this would ensure that your family would have plenty of fruits and vegetables to eat over the long New England winter. The 1771 edition I consulted has 32 pickle recipes. In addition to the usual vegetables that we eat today, Glasse has recipes for pickling just about any food you can imagine, including walnuts, peaches, lemons, fennel, oysters, and grapes!
Recently the staff had a tasting of a few varieties of any-century pickled vegetables from the supermarket to see what we’d like to offer for Tavern Night. Surprisingly, pickled asparagus was a huge hit, and the six of us polished off an entire jar over a lunch meeting!
Join us at Tavern Night on February 24th to see what other 18th century foods you might discover - tickets are $50 for members and $60 for nonmembers, and include a history lecture, beer tasting, entertainment, and two drink tickets. Check out our events page for more information.
- Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Lexington Historical Society operates three historical house museums that welcome about 20,000 visitors each year. In addition, we offer many programs and events to members of the community. The activities we engage in each year allow us the wonderful opportunity of working with other local nonprofits.
One of our long-time partners is the Lexington Field and Garden Club. While we pride ourselves on being one of the oldest organizations in town (founded in 1886), the Lexington Field and Garden Club beat us by ten years!
Every year, members of the Garden Club generously care for our two gardens. The one at Munroe Tavern features beautiful flowers that would have been in an 18th century garden, and the one at the Hancock-Clarke House features herbs used for culinary purposes, medicinal purposes, and for dyes. The Munroe Tavern garden, chaired by Kris Burton, is tended to on Tuesdays throughout the spring, summer, and fall. The Morning Study Group, a sub-group of the Lexington Field and Garden Club, has maintained the Hancock-Clarke herb garden since 1934—even before the house was moved back to its original location! Barbara Mix and Harriet Hathaway are the current stewards of the herb garden.
In addition to maintaining our gardens, the Garden Club collaborated with us this past December to host Holiday Gifts and Greens at the Depot. The event featured stunning centerpieces and decor made by Garden Club members, and we look forward to working with the club again for the 2018 holidays.
When you’re visiting our museums this coming season, I encourage you to spend some time in the gardens. If you happen to see members of the Lexington Field and Garden Club working, ask them some questions about the flowers, herbs, and the roles the plants played in colonial life! You’ll find that the gardens not only adorn our house museums, but are museums in and of themselves.
For more information on the Lexington Field and Garden Club, visit their website or their Facebook page.
-Erica Dumont, Executive Director
One of the prized possessions of Lexington Historical Society is the banner that welcomed General Lafayette to Lexington on September 2, 1824 during his American tour. Nearly 40 feet long, the banner is made of linen and bears the painted legend: WELCOME, FRIEND OF AMERICA, TO THE BIRTHPLACE OF AMERICAN LIBERTY. It hung from an arch erected near the corner of Massachusetts Avenue (then Main Street) and Clark Street. Contemporary accounts of Lafayette’s visit to Lexington describe the banner, so it has excellent provenance. It is a unique artifact of Lafayette’s visit and there are no others like it known in the United States.
Although in remarkably good condition given its age (193 years in 2017), the banner required significant conservation in order to preserve it for future generations. The Society undertook a fundraising effort to pay for this project, which was carried out in 2013 by Deirdre Windsor, a highly regarded textile expert.
The banner was featured in the Battle After the Battle exhibit at Buckman Tavern from 2014 to 2016 (below left) and it recently returned from a six month loan to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (below right). UV light can harm textiles so after so long on display, the banner will now be packed for long term storage and have a little rest in the dark. Luckily, we have images of it to enjoy!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager