Thursday, March 29, 2018

Maple Magic Delivered to your Doorstep...

... of your classroom or club house or neighborhood community center. Our newly developed maple sugaring program is offered free to the public. Your library and archives are far more than a collection of papers. Your library uses its collection and collaborates with other organizations to reach out into the community.

This inside part of the program can also be tied to a field trip to one of the area sugar operations, such as this one we recently coordinated with a local elementary school and the Believe in Books 100 acre wood sugar house.

This outreach program is based on a number of books and archival resources at the Conway Public Library and augmented with objects from the Conway Historical Society.

Jeremy Belknap gives a great description of early American settler style maple sugaring in his History of New Hampshire published in 1812.

North Conway once had an "Old Maple Sugar House" tourist attraction. If you look closely at the picture you can see a variety of buckets and bags hung on maple tree trunks indicating they were for educational and demonstration reasons, not for actual tapping.

Today that building has been enlarged and now operates as Cresh's Italian Country Kitchen restaurant. While the view of the Conway ledges has been obscured the distinctive clerestory style steam chimney can still be seen.

The scope of Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room includes western Oxford County Maine, including Fryeburg, where the famous artist Eastman Johnson created an incredible set of paintings documenting local “sugaring off” practices.

Our area's settlers learned maple sugaring techniques from the Native Americans. We celebrate the connection between Conway's Abenaki camp with the Odanak village in Quebec, Canada where there is a wonderful museum of Abenaki history and life.

Arranged by the seasons, the displays detail the many unique methods used to process maple sugar.

Our program provides "hands-on" exploration of historic tools used to help go into the woods to identify maple trees...

... cut into and tap the trees...

... explore change over time, from stone axes, to screw tip augers ...

... to more efficient brace and bits...

... compare the pros and cons of wooden buckets,

metal buckets ...

... and plastic buckets

... even a human yoke to help with carrying buckets.

To learn more about the programs we offer please contact us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

An old iron spring...

... spring tooth harrow that is, covered by a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow. While this one can be found on the east side of Route 153 just south of the Conway Public Library, old agricultural iron like this can be found throughout the Mount Washington Valley re-purposed as lawn sculpture.

With all the snow and cold temperatures recently, it is hard to believe that today is the official beginning of Spring.  Historically, with the vernal equinox thoughts naturally turned to spring green and the start of the growing season with its longer days. 

While its function is probably a mystery to most who drive by it, this snow covered item was a key piece of equipment for Spring tilling of the soil ... April showers bring May flowers. You could also read it as May flour. In the past, if you did not properly prepare the soil, you may not have been able to produce all the crops you needed to survive the next winter. We don't think about that much any more.

April come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain

April is National Poetry Month and we will feature New Hampshire poets, especially those such as Robert Frost and the Eaton Poet who celebrate our farming heritage. 

The harrow actually follows the plow and you can find a good example of one just north of the Conway Public Library on Route 16 adorning the parking lot of Banners Restaurant. 

A plow, I hear men say, to plow the snow.
They cannot mean to plant it, though --
Unless in bitterness to mock
At having cultivated rock.

Plowmen by Robert Frost 1920

A careful examination of the plow reveals it is a model 23 made by Oliver Chilled Plow Works.

Prior to 1929 the Oliver Chilled Plow Works had developed a series of plows that could be pulled by either horses or tractors. This model 23 was a two-way sulky plow that was ideal for small and irregular shaped fields. The unique design permitted plowing from one side of the field to the other, with no need of back furrows or dead furrows. A mechanical lift was provided for each plow base.

The combination of gears and gizmos and simple machines used in these farm tools are a wonder to behold and a great introduction to the ideas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons.

 Here is an example of an early advertisement for the Oliver model 23.

 Here is an example of a similar one in the original color scheme.

The company founder, James Oliver, in fact has become a "lawn sculpture" himself at the old factory, now museum in South Bend Indiana. This adds an A in STEM to create STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) to the lesson plans.

To learn more about historical farms and farming visit the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room archives or ask about our outreach programs provided free of charge.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stone by Stone

The original carved brownstone entrance of the Conway Public Library is unique among Conway village architecture and is a key to understanding the library's architectural style.

But before we examine the ornate neoclassical carved archway and columns we are going to start with the simply shaped granite base that surrounds the entire original building. These smooth granite blocks are beveled at the top and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The cornerstone at the northwest corner is dated "A.D. 1900."

A program from the cornerstone ceremony in the Henney Room's archival collection documents the celebratory events from the event of June thirteenth, 1900 including songs, prayers, benedictions and a historical address by the buildings architect, Thomas Silloway.

That year is also memorialized in stone in the lintel above the original main entrance of the building...

...and again carved in stone, this time marble, in the original entry foyer along with the names of people involved in designing and constructing the building.

The excavation for the addition a number of years ago exposed the clear difference between the rough split granite foundation of the cellar and that smoothly cut and finely shaped granite belt that surrounds the building.

The original back of the building on the south featured a bay window that jutted out from the wall and added architectural interest from outside and a nice alcove on the inside.

While most of the stone lintels above the windows were simple keystone shaped, one three-part window set was adorned with a carved floral design.

The use of stone was documented in an early Sanborn insurance map which included a key that explained the color code that represented the building material used. It also used symbols and numbers to indicate the type of roof, number of stories, and so on.

In the detail below, you can see the red for brick, the blue for stone and the yellow for the copper covered wooden framed clock tower.

Over the years, the attention to detail seems to have changed on these maps. These maps however, do document the change in the street name on the southern side of the building (with the bay window) from Silloway (the last name of the library's architect) to Greenwood.

Now let's look more closely at the stone portico that juts out from the brick facade. The arrangement of the columns, scrolls and motifs used in the design follow well established rules.

A close look at the stone shows tools marks from the chisels and guages that were used to create the lamb's tongues, floral details, egg and dart, and bead and reel motifs.

To learn more please attend our program on Thomas Silloway: Architecct of the Conway Public Library at 11 am on Saturday, March 24, 2018. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Bringing the Outside In

Let’s compare the photo above from the Conway Public Library’s Henney History Room collection with a modern photo of the same building below. 

Information about the historic photo can be found at this link. The building is now the home of the North Conway Music Center. The lower photo was taken earlier today from the entrance drive of the Fox Ridge Resort with its elegant lamps and granite supports.

The window and door patterns are basically the same. The dormers are gone and some gingerbread brackets have been added. The two chimneys of large fireplaces have been replaced with a single wood stove type chimney. This was a common practice when updating to new technology and is well explained in books we have in the history room.  

What is now Route 16 is seen as a dirt road in the first photo is now curbed with granite and paved with asphalt. Now let’s take a closer look at the historic photo.

If you look closely at the tree near the corner of the porch you will notice that the porch was actually built around the tree.  You can also see a man leaning against a "rustic" chair built from bent branches with the bark still on it. (click on the images to enlarge them).

A more modern rustic bench can be seen today along the path from the music center to the Sea Dog Brewing Company nearby.

The decorative faux "wishing well" has a sign reading "Bringing The Outdoors In."

The Henney History Room collection has many examples of this rustic aesthetic as seen in architecture, furniture and decorative arts. Over the years there have been a number of popular ways of "connecting with nature."

In fact this rustic taste actually dates back to ancient Roman times.

In future blogs we will explore more examples of bringing the outside in.