PLYMOUTH ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETY (PAS)
Three Historic Houses, Three Centuries of American History
The Plymouth Antiquarian Society owns and maintains three historic houses from different centuries: the 1677 Harlow House, the 1749 Spooner House, and the 1809 Hedge House, and an ancient Native American site, Sacrifice Rock.
Built in 1677, the gambrel-roofed Harlow Old Fort House is one of the few remaining 17th century buildings in the oldest established town in the Commonwealth. It was originally the family residence of settler William Harlow, a farmer, cooper and town official, who also served as sergeant of the local militia and participated in King Philip's War. In 1676, Harlow was granted permission to salvage material from the Pilgrim's fort-house on Burial Hill to use in the construction of his new dwelling. From the early 19th century, the Harlow House has been notable for the hand-hewn beams attributed to this source. The house, a local landmark for generations, is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places.
In 1920, when the Harlow House was put up for sale by its last private owners, much of Plymouth's historic waterfront was being razed to prepare for the Tercentenary celebration of the Landing of the Pilgrims. The Plymouth Antiquarian Society recognized the importance of preserving one of the town's few remaining First Period structures and purchased the Harlow House for $3,000. Under the direction of architect Joseph E. Chandler, the house was restored to show the early hall with its central hearth and wide board flooring. Since 1922, the Harlow House has been in continuous operation as a historic house museum, furnished with early American artifacts to show daily life in colonial New England.
After hundreds of years of being lived in, the Harlow House remains a welcoming place for children and families to explore the past. Tours and educational programs are offered seasonally. A series of festive special events is held at the site annually, including "The Corn Planting," enacted each year by local schoolchildren, a spinning bee and craft fair, and the annual Pilgrim Breakfast, a traditional New England repast featuring fish cakes, baked beans and corn bread. The Sgt. William Harlow Family Association holds a gathering for descendants of original settler William Harlow at the historic homestead every summer.
Built circa 1749 for the widow Hannah Jackson, the Spooner House is one of the oldest structures on Plymouth's picturesque North Street. It was home to one Plymouth family, the Spooners, for over two hundred years. The first Spooner to occupy the house was Deacon Ephraim Spooner, a successful local merchant and patriot during the American Revolution. The Deacon's descendants, including mariners, farmers, abolitionists, reformers, and merchants, lived here into the 1950s, adding to and adapting the house to suit their needs. James Spooner, a lifelong bachelor and patron of music, was the last member of the family to occupy the house. In 1954, he bequeathed his home and generations of family possessions to be a historical museum.
The two-story house, complete with its original furnishings, including china, paintings and furniture, shows 200 years of domestic life in Plymouth.
In 2008, the Spooner House closed for a period of study and review of its longterm building needs. The Antiquarian Society determined that significant restoration work was required and began the search for funding. In June 2009, the Spooner House Restoration Project was awarded a major grant from the Town of Plymouth Community Preservation Fund. In 2011, a series of exterior repairs were carried out, and the house and its enclosed garden re-opened to the public in 2012 for seasonal guided tours.
The 1809 Hedge House is one of Plymouth's finest examples of Federal period architecture, featuring octagonal rooms in the mainblock, and a rare, intact carriage house. Built by sea captain William Hammatt, the house was originally located on Court St., where Memorial Hall is today. In 1830, merchant Thomas Hedge purchased the house and added a three-story ell to accommodate his large family.
The Hedges owned a Main Street store, a waterfront counting house, and "Hedges Wharf," a famous site because embedded in its surface was Plymouth Rock, thought to be the landing place of the Pilgrims. Thomas Hedge was one of Plymouth's early industrialists and entrepreneurs, investing in the town's first whaling ventures, building a candle factory to process whale oil, and partnering with his brother Isaac in a brick manufactory. For a time, the Hedge family moved to Boston and used their Plymouth house as a summer home.
The house was lived in by Hedge family members until the death of the last resident, Lydia Hedge Lothrop, in 1918. Threatened with demolition to clear the way for the construction of Memorial Hall, the house was rescued by the Plymouth Antiquarian Society. The Society bought the house for $1 in 1919, and arranged to have the building moved to Water Street.
its current Water Street location, the Hedge House Museum overlooks scenic
Plymouth harbor. Period rooms reveal the richness of 19th century social
and domestic life, with China Trade treasures, American furnishings, paintings,
textiles, and toys on display. The Rose T. Briggs Memorial Garden features
brick pathways and flowering perennials. Guided tours last approximately
30 minutes and are available seasonally.
In 2002, the Hedge House closed to the public for extensive restoration and repair. The first phase of the Hedge House Restoration Project was completed in 2002-2004. With the help of a Massachusetts Preservation Projects Grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Society stabilized and restored the exterior of this unusual building. The second phase of the project, the interior restoration of the house, was carried out 2004-2007, funded in part by a generous award from the Town of Plymouth Community Preservation Fund. The Society restored and refurbished the inside of the house with documented historic paint colors, wallpapers and period carpets. A grand re-opening was held in November 2007, and the house, brought back to its original pristine grandeur, re-opened once more to the public.
Tours of the restored Hedge House are available on a regular basis each year during the summer months, or by special appointment.
Everyone knows Plymouth
Rock, but how many have visited Plymouth's other historic rock? Sacrifice
Rock on Old Sandwich Road is the Antiquarian Society's oldest and perhaps
least known historic site. Centuries before the arrival of English settlers
to the area, this ancient landmark was an important stop for Wampanoag wayfarers.
Travelers left small branches or stones atop the rock perhaps as a gesture
of sacrifice, or to receive the blessing of safe passage -- the full meaning
of the custom is shrouded by time.
In 1928, Sacrifice Rock was gifted to the Antiquarian Society by Abbott A. Raymond. In 1940, cement posts were erected to mark the site. A commemorative stone marker was added about 1960; this was replaced by a metal plaque in 1991.
It is now possible for today's travelers to stop at Sacrifice Rock thanks to a pocket park created by The Pinehills, an extensive residential development that abuts the site, and Dreamscape Landscaping. This recent improvement puts Plymouth's other Rock back on the map, and helps to highlight an ancient part of the region's diverse history.
more information, contact:
Plymouth Antiquarian Society
P.O. Box 3773
Plymouth, MA 02361