Looking to soak up some Maine history in between soaking up the sun at the beach, eating lobster and staying in a gorgeous oceanside hotel?
If I didn't already live here, I'd really envy you! ;)
The town of York is very, very fortunate to have the Old York Historical Society. Doing business as The Museums of Old York, the Historical Society was founded more than one hundred years ago to preserve the town's Maine history and artifacts.
And they do a superb job of it, too.
Offering thirty-seven period room settings and several galleries housed throughout nine historic museum buildings, the Museums of Old York showcases a wealth of early Maine history, art, architecture, and decorative arts. The exhibits focus on the every day stories of the people of Southern Maine and their world from the earliest settlement in the 1600s to the present.
Throughout the year, there are special exhibits, original historical theater, tours, events, camps for kids and - in the summer - one of the Society's largest fundraisers, the Decorator Show House.
Some of the one-of-a-kind sights you'll see as you experience York Maine history are:
The 1719 Old Gaol (pronounced “jail”) - one of the oldest British public buildings in America.
The Bulman Bedhangings: Across the street from the Old Gaol in the Emerson-Wilcox house are the Bulman Bedhangings. Donated to the museum in 1906 by descendants of York resident Mary Bulman, the Bulman Bedhangings are the only complete set of eighteenth-century crewelwork bedhangings made in North America known to exist today.
And just in case priceless antique textiles don't knock your kids socks off, there's something going on for families with children going on all summer long and into autumn. Click here
for a Museums of Old York event calendar.
Remember, you don't have to be a resident to sign the kids up for one of the morning activities. Maybe YOU could enjoy a quiet breakfast and the Marshall Store art gallery while the kids are next door having a great time finding buried treasure at the John Hancock wharf...
If you're a Maine history and New England antiques lover like I am, then this is my pick for you for a great late summer weekend in York:
The 2011 Annual Old York Antiques Show features dealers from throughout the region showcasing exceptional silver, furniture, paintings, porcelain, jewelry, oriental rugs, textiles, prints and decorative accessories. Held at the Remick Barn on the corner of York Street and Lindsay Road. The $10 admission includes a two-day ticket to experience the Museums of Old York. Free parking is available on-site. September 10-11, 2011.
Most of the buildings owned by the Old York Historical Society are right in the center of town or just down Lindsay Road, along the scenic York River.
The Old York Burying Ground
York's oldest surviving graveyard is in between the Emerson-Wilcox house and Jefferd's Tavern (a terrific example of an early American tavern, by the way).
Although it wasn't officially designated a burial ground until 1735, the earliest gravestone is that of little Lucy Moody, the baby daughter of Rev. Samuel Moody, pastor of First Parish Church. She died in 1705.
There are over 150 gravestones in York's old burying ground, and some of the carvings on them can rightfully be called tombstone art.
Probably the most famous grave in this cemetery is Mary Nasson's, a fact she probably wouldn't like at all!
Hers is known by every schoolchild in York as “the witch's grave”, probably due to the fact that it is covered with a stone slab – supposedly there to keep her spirit from rising to haunt the living.
A good story, but since no one in York was ever accused of being a witch, it's a lot more likely that the family placed the stone there to keep animals from digging up her grave.
The Sayward-Wheeler House
Another wonderful example of a early colonial home is the circa 1716 Sayward-Wheeler house at 9 Barrell Lane Extension in York Harbor. The Sayward-Wheeler house is owned and managed by Historic New England (formerly the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities).
Overlooking a once-thriving waterfront, this was the home of Jonathan Sayward, a local merchant and civic leader, who remodeled and furnished the house in the 1760s.
Sayward participated in the attack on the French fortress at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, in 1745, served in the Massachusetts legislature, and despite outspoken Tory views, retained the respect of his neighbors during the Revolution.
The Sayward-Wheeler house is open to the public on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, June through October 15. There are tours on the hour beginning at 11:00 a.m. and ending at 4:00 p.m. (FMI call (207) 384-2454).