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Old Sturbridge Village, Happy Birthday to us!

June 8 - June 9

old sturbridge vintage

Old Sturbridge Village’s birthday is on Saturday, so this week, we’re taking a look back at Village history!

Saturday, June 8th, marks 78 years since Old Sturbridge Village first opened to the public! While many things have changed in the decades since our early days, our joy of hosting visitors of all ages and backgrounds and our commitment to historic preservation, public history, and education have not. As we mark another year of OSV history, we also look with gratitude toward every member, donor, visitor, staff member, volunteer, and partner who makes the Village what it is. It truly takes a village to make this Village run, and we are grateful for your support.

Through the Decades:

A Brief History of Old Sturbridge Village

In the mid-1920s, our founder, A.B. Wells, began collecting “primitive” antiques that showed how ordinary people lived a century before. He became enraptured with collecting these tools, everyday furnishings, and gadgets and his collection grew rapidly.
In the 1930s, George B. Wells proposed a “live Village” to display that growing collection, and landscaping to create the “Village Green” began soon after. In 1937, the Gebhardt Barn became the first building to be moved to Village grounds. Over the next few years, the Fitch House, Shoe Shop, Richardson House, and the Miner Grant Store were moved.
Work was halted from 1943 to 1945 due to World War II, but the Village officially opened to the public on June 8, 1946. On that day, 81 people paid $1 each to tour the Village. One of the most iconic Village buildings, the Center Meetinghouse, was moved to the Village the following year.
The Village grew substantially with the addition of buildings like the Freeman Farmhouse, Printing Office, Salem Towne House, the Wilder Blacksmith Shop, and more. The decade was also filled with significant setbacks, including a fire that destroyed the George Stone Blacksmith Shop and severe damaging floods resulting from Hurricane Diane.
In the 1960s, the Pottery Shop, Thompson Bank, Carding Mill, and Cooper Shop were moved to the Village. Summer Shops (now known as Discovery Adventures) began in 1969.
The 1970s saw an enhanced focus on education and school programs, with the construction of the Museum Education Building featuring workshop spaces for activities like hearth cooking, letterpress printing, and weaving. In the mid-1970s, Ken Burns produced his first documentary at the Village.
Several gallery spaces were added to the Village during the 1980s. The Bixby House was also moved to Village grounds after extensive archaeological studies at its original location in Barre, MA.
Two eras collided with the launch of an Old Sturbridge Village website in 1994. The 1990s also saw the introduction of programs like a recreated Agricultural Fair and A Celebration of Craftsmanship.
The early 2000s brought the beginnings of two now iconic events: Spirit of the Season, which would evolve into our now annual Christmas by Candlelight Program, and Redcoats to Rebels (now known as Redcoats & Rebels). The early 2000s also saw the addition of the Small House.
The 2010s saw an ever-expanding rotation of public programs, including outdoor theatrical experiences, as well as the introduction of Old Sturbridge Academy. Exhibits highlighted topics like quilts, musical instruments, toymaking, and coopering.
2020s (So Far!)
In 2020, the Village endured through the uncertain early days of the pandemic and began an innovative partnership with Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol, RI. The Village continued to grow with the addition of the Cabinetmaking Shop and the Allen Piggery.
A new timeline exhibit about Old Sturbridge Village’s history is scheduled to open soon in the Visitor Center!


June 8
June 9


Old Sturbridge Village
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road
Sturbridge, MA 01566
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(800) 733-1830
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