New Exhibit: Opening Reception, May 24, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
The Bradley-Wheeler Barn
Museum of Westport History
The Bradley Wheeler Cobblestone Barn, renovated in 1994, houses the Museum of Westport History that chronicles the history of Westport from the time of the native Americans to the present day. A fascinating panorama of Westport’s development is created through a combination of large historical photographs and authentic local artifacts. Visitors will see the growth and development of trades and occupations in the agricultural, mercantile, industrial and maritime lifestyles that have contributed to the history of Westport.
The museum is open daily from April 1 through November 30, and by appointment at other times.
On display is a 5 foot square model of the town from the 1860s, built in 1999 by Tom Clough, with a generous donation from Barbara and Ray Howard. Joanne Woodward, who has been an outstanding supporter of the Westport Historical Society, along with her husband Paul Newman and “Newman’s Own, Inc.”, has recorded a dramatic and informative audio accompaniment to the display.
On the second floor of the barn is The Swezey, the very same train that moved around the store window of Swezey Jewelers, one of the oldest family-run businesses in Westport which operated in downtown Westport for over 50 years. The Swezey, which was generously donated by Donna and Michael Brody, delighted children and adults for many holiday seasons.
The train was meticulously restored and put together with devoted admiration by Westport resident and train enthusiast Carles Reedy and his son Josh. Carles spent many hours determining which trains needed to be replaced and how to get the exhibit moving with sound and elegance. Giovanni Urist, Staples graduate and a history major, researched information about the railroad’s historical impact on Westport, and this information is on display next to the exhibit.
About the Barn
On the northwest corner of the Wheeler House property stands an unusual cobblestone barn with a conical, octagonal roof. The barn is thought to have beenbuilt in circa 1847 by Farmin Patchin, a mason and blacksmith by trade and the owner of the property. The construction of octagonal houses and barns became popular in the eastern United States between 1840-1860, prompting Orson S. Fowler to write “The Octagonal Home for all”, claiming it contained more space, was easier to build and geometrically approaches that of the spire – nature’s governing form. In point of fact, the Bradley-Wheeler Barn is heptagonal (seven sided). The northeast corner of the barn was squared off, evidently to fit tightly against an attached wood frame barn (no longer standing). This made the base of the cobblestone barn seven sided. After considerable research there is still no definitive conclusions as to the original uses of the barn. The two-story structure with a partial root cellar still holds many mysteries. According to the National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination of 1984 for the historic resources at 25 Avery Place “the barn is thought to have been used in the mid-nineteenth century as a smithy”.
Museum of Westport History
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