Dennison Schoolhouse Replica (1946)
Old Sturbridge Village
1 Old Sturbridge Village Rd.
Sturbridge, MA 01566
Old Sturbridge Village, the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast, depicts a rural New England town of the 1830s. Visitors are invited into more than 40 original buildings, including homes, meetinghouses, a district school, country store, bank, working farm, three water-powered mills, and trade shops – all situated on more than 200 scenic acres. They can meet heritage breed farm animals and interact with authentically costumed staff. George Washington Wells started a small spectacle shop in Southbridge, Massachusetts in the 1840s which became the American Optical Company. His three sons—Channing M, Albert B (“AB”), and J Cheney Wells—followed him into the business, which continued to expand. In 1926, AB began to shop for antiques. This influenced Cheney to collect early American timepieces and Channing to collect fine furniture. By the early 1930s AB had more than 45 rooms full of antiques in his Southbridge home. In 1935 AB, along with his brothers, family members and associates, formed the Wells Historical Museum. In July 1936 the Museum’s trustees met to determine how the collections would best be presented to the public. It is believed that various members of the family had visited European folk museums, including Skansen in Stockholm, Sweden, which led to the genesis for what was to become Old Sturbridge Village. The Museum purchased David Wight’s farm and within a few months hired Malcolm Watkins as the museum’s first curator. Architect Arthur Shurcliff was called in to help lay out a suitable country landscape for Quinnebaug Village. By 1941, the Fitch House, the Miner Grant Store, and the Richardson House (now the Parsonage) were on the common and the Gristmill was in operation. After World War II, Ruth Wells, George B.’s wife, became Acting Director of the museum and on June 8, 1946, Quinnebaug Village became Old Sturbridge Village. In 1946, Old Sturbridge Village built a replica of an 1849 schoolhouse. It stood on the Common, where the Thompson Bank is now located. In 1963, it was moved elsewhere in the Village, where it is now used for historical performances and special programs. The original Dennison Schoolhouse, on Dennison Lane in Southbridge, is now a private residence.