Pounding Pegs—An Experience in Living History

sign (300x224)Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. Not far from my home in western Maine is the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center, a working farm where visitors of all ages can experience what life was like in the nineteenth century. They can stay for an hour or two or participate in a live-in. School programs run regularly during the school year, giving young people the chance to take on the roles of farm children in a simpler time. The library is available to researchers writing about the period. Classes are taught in the one-room schoolhouse.

house (300x224)For many years, the historic buildings on this property, formerly the home of the Washburn family, consisted of a 1867 mansion, a farmer’s cottage, a 1883 library, a 1828 meeting house, and a 1853 schoolhouse. Following standard practice here in Maine, where you do not want to have to go outside in winter just to feed the animals, an ell connected the mansion to the barn. On April 28, 2008, a fire broke out in that barn. Only extensive pre-planning on the part of local fire departments prevented a worse disaster, but both the barn and the farmer’s cottage were destroyed.

Willi Irish pounding peg (158x300)There was never any question that what had been lost would be rebuilt. What took time was raising enough money for the project and finding the right people to create an accurate reproduction of what had existed in the nineteenth century. The farmer’s cottage was rebuilt in 2011. In late May of this year, work started on the barn. At the official barn-raising ceremonies, a number of the pegs to be used in the construction were pounded in by Norlands personnel, most of whom are volunteers.

pounding the first peg (300x224)

Pictures, as they say, sometimes speak louder than words. In addition to the ones here, you can see more, and videos, at the Norlands facebook page

Norlands barn (300x224)


Fundraising continues, not only to rebuild the barn but also to continue the wonderful programs Norlands offers. This coming weekend, June 13 and 14, is the 5th Rally for Norlands, a Civil War Reenactment Weekend. This event features reenactors from Norlands and from the 3rd Maine Co. A and the 15th Alabama Co. G, as well as period crafters and exhibitors. There will be civilian and infantry encampments, a Civil War battle, a field hospital, field music, a blacksmith, a 19th century fashion show, storytelling, and a Town Ball game (the forerunner of baseball), plus all the permanent attractions of the living history center. Gates open at 9AM at 290 Norlands Road, Livermore, Maine 04253. For more information, the website is http://www.norlands.org

refreshments at the barn raising

refreshments at the barn raising


library and schoolhouse from the deck of the barn

library and schoolhouse from the deck of the barn

one of the few shady spots on barn raising day

one of the few shady spots on barn raising day

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9 Responses to Pounding Pegs—An Experience in Living History

  1. Thanks for sharing about this wonderful organization. Sounds like there are some wonderful opportunities here.

  2. Lea Wait says:

    I cant believe I’ve never been there, Kathy/Kate! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Edith says:

    I love Norlands-Washburn and am so glad they were able to rebuild. I did the live-in last September and loved it. I learned so much that I was able to incorporate into my historical mysteries. Must get back up there to the library!

    • For anyone who doesn’t know, Edith has a new series coming out soon about a Quaker midwife in 1888. I’ve read the first one and it’s terrific.


  4. KB Inglee says:

    I was there when the steeple blew off the meeting house in the early 1960s. That was rebuilt, so why not everything else. I spent a wonderful weekend there when I started writing historicals. I actually got to use “antidisestablishmentarianism” during a dinner conversation. If you write historicals, or even if you are an avid reader, spend some time at Norlands.

    • If I remember rightly, the schoolhouse also burned down at one point, but another one was found and moved to the site. The volunteers who keep things going are a dedicated bunch.


  5. Heidi Wilson says:

    Kathy, are you familiar with the book Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn? It documents the connected farm buildings of New England, with special focus on those of Maine. There are wonderful pictures, diagrams and explanations of these structures, which were state-of-the-art factories in their day.

    • Thanks for the reminder. It’s a fascinating book. My late in-laws’ house in Farmington Falls had the full set of connected buildings, including an indoor outhouse in one of the sections. Very handy during power outages!


  6. Carol-Lynn Rössel says:

    Hi Kathy!
    Back when Jenny-Lynn was six or so I traveled with her class to Norlands (and, of course, took photos — which I still own somewhere; at least I’ve an idea where the negs reside) of the group in the school house. Jenny-Lynn wore a long dress & bonnet I made her. 40 years ago! Those were the long gone days I sewed all our clothes. Though it’s not so far away I’ve seldom visited; more’s the shame. Maybe five years ago I accompanied a sister city group from Russia to Norlands (Portland –> Arkhangelsk) and took photos in the barn. As those were digital, who knows where they live. Thanks for reminding me. I grew up in NYC and never did get to the Twin Towers, though my next door neighbor worked there. It was always going to be there.
    I never even captured it on film. Norlands will be a destination this summer, now.

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