The town of Barre was were I grew up. It is a rural area that is not far from major urban areas. Despite being in a very different place now, it was a great place to grow up. Located in Worchester County it was incorporated in 1774 as Hutchinson after Thomas Hutchinson the Governor of the colony. However, in 1776 it was renamed Barre after Isaac Barre, a Parliament member that opposed the stamp tax. The Barre Historical Society is on the west side of the town common at 18 Common St. Barre Historical Society is open on Thursdays from 10 am until noon and on Sundays during the farmers market (summer mornings) and can be called at 978-355-4978.
Barre Historical Society
The Barre Historical Society is located in a house build in 1836, giving them more space than an old school house. The house was built to be the home of Mr. Feilds a prosperous merchant. The house was designed and built by Elias Carter. Elias Carter was a well-known architect at the time, who designed many churches and houses in central Massachusetts. In addition, he designed parts of Westborough Hospital and New Hampshire State Insane Asylum. The house is well maintained and covers the early history of Barre along with holding town records.
In the 1800’s industrialization and new factories came to Barre. At the same time, the population expanded. Many of the products produced in Barre were clothing related. On the left, you can see an example of the women’s palm leaf hat. The most memorable for me was the Barre Wool Combing Company.
The Barre Wool Combing Company lasted until the 1950’s and some of its buildings were still up when I was a kid. Part of the reason they are very slowly coming down is that of the asbestos inside them. Granted, as kids, we did not care about that when we would sneak into the buildings to explore. Barre Wool brought in immigrants from England, Italy, Lithuania, and Poland. They then housed the immigrants in different workers villages based on their origin.
Barre also had a piano factory and a gunpowder mill. The piano on the right is the only known survivor from the short-lived factory. The gunpowder mill was a major producer of gunpowder for the United States. At that time industrial accidents were more common and the Mill had two large accidental explosions in 1847 and 1858. In 1868 the gunpowder mill was closed and moved to Acton.
Hotel and Rail Lines
Before cars, the fastest way to travel was by train. By extension, most towns had a hotel that travelers could stay at. Barre had its hotel located on the west side of the common. The Barre Savings Bank (now Fidelity and a PIA not worth using) parking lot is where the Hotel used to be. The hotel was burnt down on August 29, 1990, the day before I was born. The fire was so large it required assistance from 14 different towns.
The Second Building
The Barre Historical Society has a second building to hold many of their larger artifacts. The crown of that is the coach they have. Coaches like this were used for moving passengers between towns. This one was built in Concord New Hampshire in 1859 and was made for 12 passengers. The coach would have been pulled by a team of horses between the different towns.
When the Barre Historical Society got the coach it was almost all black as it had been painted over. It was a major restoration project to return it to its look from its working days.
The second building also contains a replica of Senator Brewer’s office, an old printing press, old town vehicles and examples of the machines made by Allen Foundry during their history.