Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Captain David Judson House

Stratford, CT

What's a young aspiring preservationist to do during the dog days of summer?  Those in Stratford, CT attend the annual history camp.   The week long camp for fourth graders through high school teaches kids about life in the 1700's.  The campers learn about butter making, candle dipping, weaving, and herb gardening.  They can become junior docents and on the last day of camp lead family and friends on a tour of the home.

My recent tour was lead by Pam and the junior docent of the day, Emily. They were both very knowledgeable about life in the 1700's and the many tools, farm implements, and household products of the day.  In fact my overall impression of the home was not about the family that lived there but about the many artifacts of the time period.  I  could probably skip camp and go right to the junior docent position.

Highlights for me:

*  The bulls eye glass in the front door was probably made in England.  In the 1750's, due to British Parliamentary regulation not expertise, glass was not made in the US.

*  As your candle burns down it becomes more difficult to read your book or sew but if you have this handy little table/candle holder that twists up and down like a screw you'll hold onto that light a little bit longer.

*  Privacy is something very important to us today.  But that wasn't true during colonial times.  In the Judson House living room is a corner chair or chamber pot chair.  There was no need to clear the room if you needed to "use the facilities".  Just pick up the chair top and then your dress.

*  Candles were made from meat fat so in addition to emitting a distinctive odor they were attractive to mice and thus kept on the wall in a metal candle keeper.

*  The coming and going room.  Love the name.  So simply states its purpose.  Birthing and dying.

*  Tea!  We all know how big a thing that was in the colonies and in the Revolutionary War! Somehow  tea was condensed into rock solid bricks that were shaved to create a small amount of loose tea to use for brewing.  The house has two tea blocks.  One brick was about 1 X 2 inches and the second one was huge at maybe 5 X 8 inches.  Both had an intricate design stamped onto the front.

I'm beginning to see an interesting thread in my tours and reading.  The stories of how buildings are saved and rehabbed are themselves fascinating pieces of history.  In 1925 the Judson House was given by the Curtis sisters to the town of Stratford.  The gift included a stipulation that the town raise $10,000 for upkeep and maintenance.  With an astonishing $13,000 Stratford surpassed the goal and the local Historical Society was born.

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