Since western Massachusetts was at the forefront of America’s industrial revolution, the region played an important role in the nation’s development as a world power. Here are some places where visitors can explore three centuries of western Massachusetts history.
1. The Armory National Historic Site
President George Washington established Springfield Armory in 1794 as the first official arms producer for the U.S. Army. Thus, the economy of modern Massachusetts developed around the manufacturing of military weapons. Since operations ceased in 1968, the Springfield Armory has been designated a National Historic Site, and provides visitors a look into the region’s past. Visit the nearby Museum of Our Industrial Heritage in Greenfield to learn more about Franklin County’s industrial heritage. https://www.nps.gov/spar/index.htm
2. The Storrowton Village Museum
While in West Springfield, you can stroll through an authentic reconstruction of a 19th century village. This open-air museum hosts historical buildings from Massachusetts and New Hampshire that have been relocated and carefully reconstructed. Among them are a functional mid-19th century blacksmith shop and the home of inventor Captain John Potter. https://www.storrowtonvillage.com
3. Old Sturbridge Village
History enthusiasts must visit OSV, a living history exhibit about life in New England during 1790-1840. One of the country’s largest living history museums, OSV features costumed interpreters, 40 historic buildings, water-powered mills, working farms, demonstrations, gardens and antiques. Visitors can watch the potter, tinsmith, cooper and blacksmith at work, see farm animals, and enjoy hands-on crafts. OSV even has lodging and dining if you decide to stay for a while. The Village is open year-round and hosts several seasonal events, so it’s worth multiple visits. https://www.osv.org/
4. Historic Deerfield
Presents history, art and architecture through a dozen wonderfully-preserved museum houses ranging in date from the 1730s to the 1840s on their original sites. Inside them, visitors will find one of the best public collections of art and antiques in America. Depending on the time of year you go, you may also be able to visit the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association where you can learn more about the history of Deerfield. http://www.historic-deerfield.org/
5. The Emily Dickinson Museum / The Eric Carle Museum
Many esteemed writers and artists have lived in western Massachusetts. Emily Dickinson crafted her prose in Amherst, and the Emily Dickenson Museum includes The Homestead, where the writer lived for most of her life. http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/. Eric Carle, illustrator and writer of beloved children’s books, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, lived in Northampton for 30 years. The Eric Carle Museum in Amherst celebrates his beloved picture book art. https://www.carlemuseum.org/.
Want to go deeper? Many of our cities and towns maintain proud, well-managed historical societies and offer access to venerable documents, photos, letters and much more. The opportunity to delve into the history of Western Mass remains there for the curious.