We've been enjoying beautify and snowy Massachusetts this week, as Rick and I headed there for one of his trade shows. Sometimes you just have to kill time. Rick had a client meeting and there were a few hours till I had to be on the trade show floor, so I took off to see a little bit of the area near Marlboough, Massachusetts, including Sudbury. There wasn't a lot of time, but I was happy to find a terrific wine store in Marlborough and then a delightful old country store near Sudbury.
This is Longfellow country, or so they would remind you. Although the Wayside Inn Country Store isn't part of the historical district (or maybe it is -- it was old enough!), it was a great place to stop. (Actually, this might be part of Henry Ford's purchase of 3,000 acres in the area, including the Inn property itself and this was moved from Sudbury to this site in 1929.) True, it had the usual souvenir stuff, but the candy room more than made up for it, with a combination of hard-to-find vintage candies and old favorites. (They also had the best ginger snaps, which I didn't discover until I tasted some I bought for someone else and wish I'd bought them for us, too!
Of course, the front was fun with its two opinionated benches -- for Democrats and Republicans!
After getting lost for a few minutes and stopping at an antique store, I found the official Wayside Inn Historic District, which includes the inn and several outbuildings. I didn't have time to go into them but the history was interesting. The inn itself is still in business after nearly 300 years and its website calls it the oldest operating inn on one of the oldest commissioned roads in the United States.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited the inn in 1862 and the following year wrote "Tales of the Wayside Inn," featuring a collection of characters and introducing the popular poem you may have learned in school:
Listen my friends and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
After publication of the book, the site became a tourist destination and boarding house. (It was interesting for me to think of tourist attractions from the 1800s, given that getting around wasn't as simple then and to make the effort to get there would have really been a challenge.) In the years that would follow (and the new owners over time) it would be come a literary mecca for writers.
Henry Ford discovered it, too, buying it in 1923 with the idea of turning it into a Greenfield Village or Williamsburg-type historical center. (Incidentally, neither of those had opened at that time.) He credited an admiration of Longfellow as his motivation. To accomplish his goal, he purchased additional land around the building, added new buildings to the site and commissioned a fully operating grist mill to be built.
Ford moved the old general store from Sudbury onto the 3,000 acres along with a one-room schoolhouse and a second vocational school for boys to train workers for employment in his automobile factories in Michigan. He kept the inn going and often visited himself on his annual "Vagabond" retreats with pals named Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs, and used it as a stopping point on his family summer holidays in Maine. Eventually he placed the property into a trust to preserve the area in perpetuity. In later years it became a part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The mill is particularly picturesque, especially on a snowy winter day, looking almost like a Christmas card. It was built to be a museum in the style of mills in the Delaware Valley and England. For many years it produced corn, wheat and rye for the Inn.
In the 50s, after a hiatus, it was leased by Pepperidge Farm to proudce stone ground heat flour. This arrangement lasted for 15 years and then produced flour for King Arthur Company. Now the mill produces four for the Inn and its gift shop.
The combination of the other outbuildings (including the Martha Mary Chapel, which unfortunately, I didn't find in time to photograph) the snow, the picturesque setting all made this a delightful break in the action.
But then it was back to work. Yes, with a bit of a heavy sigh, yet smiling.