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Missisquoi Museum and Walbridge Barn Set to Open

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large_walbridge.2010.2_0.jpg--May 10, 2010

The Missisquoi Historical Society, based in Stanbridge East, is preparing the finishing touches on an exhibition of its extensive agricultural collection, which will be on permanent display at the Walbridge Barn in Mystic. A grand opening of this exhibition, within the newly restored historic barn, is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 30.

The Walbridge Barn, which has been declared a historic site by the province of Quebec, is a unique twelve-sided structure built in 1882 by local resident Alexander Walbridge. Walbridge, an inventor and industrialist, loved to build. From the 1860s until his death in the 1890s, Walbridge built (in Mystic alone) an iron works, a dam and pond, the second storey of the local school, the Methodist Church, and a splendid 25-room brick mansion overlooking a private lake and known as Lakelet Hall. Walbridge's greatest legacy, however, was his magnificent 12-sided barn.

large_walbridge.2010.jpgA lasting testament to Walbridge's imagination and genius, this amazing 12-sided barn is still the most imposing structure in the tiny hamlet of Mystic. It has a conical roof and twelve separate bays, each of which was used for a different crop.

The inside of the barn was built with a floor that rotated by means of waterpower from a nearby brook. Teams of horses would enter the barn and mount the turntable with their loaded wagons. The turntable would then be rotated to the appropriate mow, where crops would be unloaded. Once this was done, the turntable would be rotated again to allow the horses to exit the barn. Walbridge’s design was apparently inspired by turntables used for rotating railway engines.

The Walbridge Barn, which has been the focus of a great deal of attention (and restoration activity) in recent years, will make for an impressive backdrop for the agricultural collection of the Missisquoi Museum. Through the generosity of the Walbridge family, which has lovingly maintained the site for over 125 years, the barn has been donated to an organization especially created to manage it, the Walbridge Conservation Area Foundation.

large_miss.mill_.jpgThe Missisquoi Museum itself, which is located at 2 River Street in picturesque Stanbridge East, is housed in the historic Cornell Mill (1830), overlooking Pike River. Exhibits at the mill specialize in the history of the Loyalists and other aspects of Missisquoi County's fascinating past.

As one wanders through the maze of rooms and floors in the old brick mill, one is ever-conscious of the river bubbling below. The mill is permeated with history. From the rough hewn planks of the floor, to the cracked, canting walls, to the splendid artifacts carefully preserved within the mill, every corner of this place is an homage to the settlers who pioneered this part of the Townships.

A new summer exhibition will be opening at the Cornell Mill the same day as the exhibition at the Walbridge Barn. The title of this exhibition is "Dust to Dust: The Abandoned Graveyards of Missisquoi County in Crisis."

large_miss.hodge_.jpg.jpgA third site that is maintained by the Missisquoi Historical Society is called Hodge's Store. Hodge's was built on the banks of the Pike River in the mid-1800s and is located just up the street from the mill. Walking into the store is like stepping back in time. The merchandise on the shelves dates almost entirely to the 1940s. Indeed, like much of Stanbridge East, little has changed here over the decades. And happily so.

Admission to the Missisquoi Museum's three locations is $10.00 per person. For more information, call (450) 248-3153.