Saturday, November 7, 2015

November 7, 2015, Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class at 19th Century Willowbrook Village: A summary of the class activity by a budding gas engine novice


The 7HP Economy in its long time resting place; it is presented connected to an 1880s Chase shingle mill, but the consensus is that this engine may not have had enough power to actually cut shingles. The unusual feature to this engine is the side mounted kerosene tank right above the base and behind the black pipe used to fill the gas tank. This pipe apparently is not very efficient so we will reconfigure it with the tank replacement. The tank itself had many lead patches and a quantity of rust flakes in it. The vent for fueling was merely a puncture at the top of the tank. The new tank will include a larger in diameter copper pipe that we have to orchestrate under the engine. I say "orchestrate" as it is difficult to get under the whole engine in order to make exact measurements for a top of the tank vent. Certainly part of the work on this engine will include beefier skids, perhaps 2 x 6s or 2 x 8s so there is greater visibility and access to the new tank once it is in place.

Gantry crane in place with chain fall made working on this 7 HP Economy engine possible; in fact, we picked it up in order to access the gas tank. The tank was deteriorated, and we ill be making a new one. Here we see instructor Doug Kimball who co-taught the class with Russ Welch. The two taught our previous three consecutive Saturdays class; this class was a one day eight hour class. Both these guys have a wealth of knowledge about these early gas engines having been long time collectors and gas engine presenters at Maine Antique Power Association meets.

We did not succeed in starting this engine, as we ran out of time. Our original class was three consecutive Saturdays, but this time round we couldn't find students who could forfeit this time so we went with a one day class. And, of course, we couldn't accomplish as much in the eight hours we had this time round. A number of problems were revealed. In re-inserting the cylinder the top ring broke; on this particular cylinder there were pins on rings two and three but not on number one. Nevertheless we  thought that we could achieve enough compression if we re-arranged the intact rings we had positioning them at the top and middle of the cylinder. We re-inserted the cylinder and thought we would give it a go. There were other issues with the new igniter seal  that we had replaced but nevertheless leaked and lost compression. We also had issues with a build up of red paint that effected our governor system. The plan is to go back and remove that material and make it move freely.

This is the Gantry crane in place. The lifting rig includes an ingenious metal pipe construction that keep the engine level when lifting created by Russ Welch, one of our veteran mechanics. this in combination with nylon strands made positioning the engine child's play.

The head is off. We had to heat those nuts with a torch in order to get them off.
 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bruce D. Fleming


Bruce D. Fleming
Recently, the museum received the donation of a collection of homemade crystal radios created by the late Bruce Fleming.
Born at Booth Memorial Hospital in Boston in 1943, he was son of Hartwell and Irene Fleming, Lieutenant Colonels in the Salvation Army in Portland, ME. Shortly thereafter the Fleings were transferred to Rochester and Concord, NH where Bruce attended elementary school. Eventually, they transferred to Philadelphia where Bruce graduated from Northeast High School.

Shortly thereafter he sought out a career in electronics finding employment at Technitrol Engineering in Philadelphia where he worked with the Air Force on the Gemini Space Project. In 1966 he entered The Salvation Army College for Officer Training located in the Bronx, NY. After serving fourteen years with The Salvation Army, Bruce worked for General Dynamics Electric Boat Division in Groton, CT for eighteen years. He was a sonar electrician working on construction of the country’s nuclear submarines. After retirement from Electric Boat, Bruce and his wife, Lorraine, served as officers (ministers) in The Salvation Army in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He previously served as Administrator of The Salvation Army Day Care Center in Dorchester, MA and Assistant Administrator of The Salvation Army Booth Hospital in Cleveland, OH.

A skilled photographer and model builder, Bruce also spent time building crystal radios. His interest in crystal radios began with his reading of Boys’ Life as an eight year old. He eventually shared his passion for radio building with workshops for kids until his death in 2013.

As Fleming has said, “it’s a hobby of childhood simplicity and flavor at first glance, but it possesses technical complexity that creates a never-ending quest for resolution and design variation.” “I build crystal radios,” said Fleming, “you’ve heard of them…maybe you made one or listened to one sixty years ago. It’s an awkward collection of homely parts that seem to have no relationship to one another, yet they draw a radio station to your ear. Interestingly, all radios today use the same design as the crystal sets of 1920.

What sets these beauties apart is that you don’t plug them into the wall socket…they use no batteries…no solar batteries, yet they are always “ON”. It’s the ultimate “green” radio. They draw their required energy from the electro-magnetic field created by the radio station. That “field” is the pull you feel when you bring a magnet near metal. I’d like to have a car that does that!

One of my radios has a base made from an old oak stair riser. I wound a tuning coil with Litzendraht wire from Germany; we call it Uberlitz because we like it. Then added a variable capacitor from Montana…a few switches removed from WWII military gear…Galena “crystal” from South America…and so on.  That radio won the 2004 International Crystal Radio Contest by receiving 141 stations.

Donation of Lorraine Fleming, Willowbrook Collection, 2015
The hobby offers an opportunity to design and create radios with a direct connection to the days of early inventors such as Nicholas Tesla. It affords the ability to follow the progression of electronic development and see the positive and negative effects brought on by a century of change. This world looks today like it has experienced drastic change when; in fact, there has been little change.  

 

 

 

Radio Buff Tunes in Yesteryear

The following is an article that appeared about the late Bruce Fleming of Old Orchard Beach, ME. Mrs. Lorraine Fleming has donated examples of her late husband's homemade radios.


Radio Buff Tunes in Yesteryear ( Valley News Dispatch, February 25, 2007)

He builds crystal radios with antique components.

By Tamara Sampson, for the Valley News Dispatch

People often question what it would be like to travel back in time to an era where things were much different. In a small way, that’s what Lower Burrell resident Bruce Fleming does when he works with his crystal radios, which were used in the early 1900s.

A wooden tea box becomes the armature for one of Bruce Fleming's radios.

C.R. Gold tea box crystal radio.


Observe the cat's whisker to the right.



 
Fleming’s hobby of building crystal radios has led him to scavenge antique shops and eBay packages that advertise a box of “old wires and stuff” someone found in his late father’s attic. He’s hoping to find components such as coils, wire and old capacitors to build the radios.

A cigar box crystal radio.

 

Although he can buy newer wires for his hobby, the old fashioned components lend to the authenticity of the radios.

“I have one authentic radio, and all the components of that particular radio were built with antique parts,” he said. “It’s as close to what they experienced in 1920 as you can get. It took me over a year to find the parts over the Internet and at antique shops.”

This vintage tuning capacitor is one of many that the Late Bruce Fleming sought and found
for his crystal radio constructions. Donated by Lorraine Fleming, Willowbrook Collection
 
The tool that pulls the components together, making them successfully tune in a radio station, is an LC meter. An LC meter measures inductance and capacitance, according to Fleming. He described inductance as the value of a coil, and capacitance is what makes the radio sound the station that the coil’s tuned to.

“For example, if you’re listening to AMK radio,” Fleming said. “Say you want to listen to KDKA, You’d want a coil with the number of windings tuned to the frequency 1020, but the capacitor would resonate that coil and make it tune in KDKA.

The radio’s ability to harvest radio waves in the air, using no electricity or battery power, is the reason it continues to be used---especially in military settings.

Fleming said crystal radios were popular in the early 1900s, but around 1922, the tube was invented. That changed the future of radio.

However, during World War II, the crystal radio was crucial. Fleming said GIs built crystal, or foxhole, radios---they are simply wire wrapped around a toilet paper roll with other attachments they would have had readily available.


This foxhole radio is one of Fleming's making, although it mixes elements of the original type including a single edge razor blade, pencil lead, and a safety pin to recreate the "cat's whisker". It also includes more durable materials like the PVC pipe for a coil rather than a toilet paper roll. These sets were ubiquitous during WWII as Fleming points out as they were easily constructed and could be hidden. Donated by Lorraine Fleming, Willowbrook Collections.
 
“The crystal is made up of a rusty razor blade and pencil lead out of a regular pencil and hooked to a safety pin,” he said.

 Crystal radios were the lifeline for Germans who wanted to get news on the war. Tube radios could be detected by the Gestapo and were therefore dangerous to use.

“tube radios emit an oscillation that can be heard by another receiver,” Fleming said. “When the German army would come through town, they looked for people who had radios. They went by houses with receivers and could hear oscillation in the house.

“The foxhole radio did not oscillate, so you could have it running, and no one could detect it. It’s a way during that period of history that people could listen to the BBC or Radio Europe and hear the news without worrying about detection.”

Fleming’s affinity for the inner workings of electronics led him to jobs with the Gemini and Apollo space programs in the 1960s and contract work as an electrical technician on Navy nuclear submarines from 1980 to 1998.

Now a major with the New Kensington Salvation Army, he uses crystal radios to illustrate the radio waves in the air in his sermons.

 

Monday, October 12, 2015

New Crystal Radio Set Collection Exhibit, Donation from the late Bruce Fleming, Old Orchard Beach, October 5, 2015

Recently, Willowbrook received the donation of homemade crystal radio sets created by the late Bruce Fleming. His wife, Mrs. Lorraine Fleming of Old Orchard Beach has seen that the museum was offering crystal radio set building workshops, as part of our summer history camp each camper created their own wood based radio set. As we go forward with this seem, we have received much assistance from Rex Harper of Limerick who actually markets a Ham Radio Set on the Internet and has had much experience with radio kit building. In conjunction with this summer's program, he built a AM transmitter for the purpose of generating radio to pick up on our crystal radio sets at the museum. The geography, or rather topography, is not right for picking up the very weak AM radio signals available in this area. With Mr. Fleming's collection of his own handmade radios that include a razor blade trench radio, cat whisker type crystal sets as week as more sophisticated vacuum tube set ups, we will be inspired to make more crystal radios. We will be scheduling a building class soon, and this will be announced on our website: www.willowbrookmuseum.org

Summer History Camp, August, 2015: We made crystal radios from purchased components. We set up a AM transmitter for the purpose of making the strongest AM radio station available to our radio builders at the museum campus that is unfortunately place for picking up AM radio and cell service.

Here we see a loopstick tuner; we will improve upon this for our next radio build.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ash Sunday at Willowbrook, September 27, 10-5





Ash Sunday Showcases the Wood's Beauty and the Tree's Enemy

Craftspeople, woodworkers and scientists are gathering at Willowbrook Museum in Newfield Sept. 27 to demonstrate traditional skills using ash wood. They will also talk about the impending infestation of a ash-killing beetle that has decimated forests west of Maine.

The series of hands-on activities, demonstrations, and workshop talks are sponsored by Willowbrook, Francis Small Heritage Trust and Forest Works!

"It's a way to connect people with the Maine environment," says Bob Schmick, director of Willowbrook Museum. "We live with the woods all around us, but we all get into our groove, and how often do we get to connect with the woods and trees?"

The day features a "great" lineup of activities, says Alison Truesdale, executive director of Francis Small Heritage Trust. “Part of the trust’s mission is helping people appreciate the natural world – not just the science behind it, but cultural aspects. Working with Willowbrook is an example of the collaborative effort the trust is hoping to do more of now and in the future.”

Ash Sunday
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday Sept. 27
WIllowbrook Museum, Newfield

Craftspeople:
Mark Young of Wells, owner of Black Ash Pack Basket, will demonstrate basektmaking and other rustic creations.
Bob Schmick of Eddington will demonstrate making of a simple shaving horse
Frank Vivier of West Newfield will demonstrate bow-making
Daniel Eaton of Denmark will demonstrate a work-in-progress canoe or small boat restoration

Penobscot storytelling:
Ron Prevoir of Shapleigh will bring regalia and museum artifacts in a story-telling of the ash tree and the Penobscot creation story.

Logging
Adrian Knox of Shapleigh and his team of oxen will twitch out ash logs from the museum's woodlot for use in firewood cutting.

Emerald ash borer and girdling trap trees
Colleen Teerling, forest entomologist with the Maine Forest Service, will talk about the impending infestation of the emerald ash borer, a beetle that has been decimating forests from the Midwest to New York and has been found in a county in New Hampshire 30 miles west of Newfield. Teerling will demonstrate the proper technique for girdling a trap tree in the spring to help track and manage an infestation.
Oliver Markewicz, Maine District forester will talk about telltale signs of the emerald ash border.

Children's hands-on activities
Ash firewood cutting with buck saw and two-person crosscut.
Archery with ash bows and handmade arrows - supervised by Frank Vivier
Augering peg holes with brace and bit - supervised by Bob Schmick

Incidentals
Apple cider pressing with old fashioned mills
Cooking in Victorian kitchen
Firewood splitting with 19th century splitter

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Progress On The Cider Mill at Willowbrook and our ASH SUNDAY event, September 27, 2015

In recent weeks the cider mill has taken on some new developments. Ashley Gerry has resumed work on the platform that holds the restored apple grinder. The pan is to construct more heavy duty sawhorses to rest the grinder on. This will keep the grinder level with the pomace basket. A removable sluice way will link the grinder and basket. We have always talked about powered the grinder with a horse treadmill that is situated next to this equipment. We may choose an early gas engine. A 5HP Nelson Brothers engine will be hooked up to the rig; we will see how effective that is in turning the crushing drum with a full load of apples.

We hope to have this functioning in time for our September 27 event ASH SUNDAY, in partnership with the Francis Small Heritage Trust and Forest Works. The Nelson Brothers engine, which will be delivered next week, after I work on a set of oak skids for it today. this may be used to also power a wonderful late 19th century wood splitter in the museum's collection. The ASH SUNDAY event will focus on the many uses of ash; this is a proactive presentation given the damage that the ash borer has inflicted on trees as close as the State of New Hampshire. The day will include a presentation from the State entomologist and District forester as well as area crafts people who utilize this wood for their work: a bow maker, pack basket maker, Native American artist/sculptor and more. Several ash trees will be felled on the museum property and twitched out of the woods by a team of oxen owned by Adrian Knox of Shapleigh, ME.





Adrian Knox of Shapleigh with his team of oxen that will be used to twitch some logs out of the woods at Willowbrook for our September 27 even ASH SUNDAY event in partnership with the Francis Small Heritage Trust and the nonprofit Forest Works.



Sunday, September 6, 2015

Maine Sunday Telegram, July 5, 1970, 19th Century Reborn In Newfield

Newfield---The prosperous Victorian era and its gracious way of living, known to today's children only through history books or "funny" old family portraits, has been recreated for them in a unique museum here.

Willowbrook at Newfield, scheduled to open to the public on July 1, was established for the young people of New England, according to its owner, Donald F. King, Sr., a Topsfield, Mass., industrial executive [ the museum became a 501(c)3 nonprofit in 1980].

ITS PRIMARY PURPOSE is to show them how their ancestors lived and worked in the 19th century. Other museums and artifact collections in New England area are mainly concerned with the colonial period.

King, who has been interested in antiques and especially in the Victorian period for many years, purchased the property five years ago to use as a vacation lodge.

He decided on the restoration project on learning the historical value of the property. the tract includes the William Durgin jr. homestead built in 1813, the Dr. Isaac Trafton homestead built in 1856, and the former Durgin barns, purchased by Amos Straw in 1932 [1832] and used as a general store, livery stable and town social hall.

The area was one of the few in the town spared by the 1947 forest fire.

THE FIRST PURCHASE for the museum was made on March 22, 1967. Construction work on the museum began 18 months ago. local cooperation and effort resulted in completion of the project a year ahead of time.

Two local ladies, Mrs. Georgia Perry and Mrs. Cecile LePage have spent two years scraping, refinishing, painting, upholstering, and plastering to restore the antiques and the interior of the buildings.

Neither one had done this type of work before, but the results prove that they have become experts.

Emphasis during restoration was on authenticity. Every item is a genuine period piece. There are no reproductions. Most were obtained from within a 100 mile radius of the museum.

THE RESULT IS the most complete Victorian museum in this part of the country and possibly in the entire United States, according to Mrs. Perry, now serving as museum director.

The homes are reconstructed as they were last lived in. Every aspect of life included, from the farming implements and tradesman's shops to the nursery complete with toys and the unmarried maiden's private bed and sitting room.

The Durgin homestead, where Straw once operated a tavern, reflects the higher social life of the era. It was noted for its red velvet parlor, faithfully re-created with furniture purchased in Alfred.

The most modest Dr. Trafton homestead is the typical country home of a man of high professional standing whose fees were often paid in produce rather than in cash. One room of the house has been set aside as a marine museum to honor the memory of Maine seafarers. Its walls are papered with nautical maps of the state's coastline.

STRAW'S STORE has been reopened, featuring penny candies, with a display of antique guns, swords and scales in the former post office.

The livery stable area displays the varied crafts and trades which once flourished here. tools on display were collected locally and are relics of the time when local craftsmen included 42 shoemakers, 21 blacksmiths and 11 carriage builders.

Included is a large wrought iron sign, "Black Smithing" in script, discovered lying in tall grass on the site. Featured in the harness shop is a saddle which reportedly once carried a local resident 100 miles to get a doctor.

The dance hall and meeting place, located over the store, was a focal point of social life. It was also, according to local rumor, the meeting place of a mysterious secret society. A blackball box and a ballot box found on the premises lend some credence to the rumor.

The collection also features, in gleaning black and silver, the last horse-drawn hearse in Newfield, a fire chief's sleigh from Berwick, a Thomaston State Prison sleigh, a children's goat wagon, a Park Buggy with the first rumble seat to be used in a vehicle, and a huckster's wagon used by travelling peddlers.

A NEW ADDITION is an inch-by-inch replica of the Little Red Schoolhouse, modeled after the Fenderson School House, built in South Parsonsfield in 1810, and still standing on its original site.

THE CLOTHING COLLECTION indicates that our Victorian ancestors, although smaller and slimmer than modern ladies, were not necessarily as prim and straight laced as depicted, but actually quite style conscious.

The extensive vehicle collection proves the existence of hot rodders and dragsters in those days. The buggies and sleighs designed for speed and racing contests were often driven by ladies.

The school has proven to be a big hit with visiting youngsters who first try out its seats, three to a desk, and then hastily "autograph" its blackboard before leaving.

MODERN INNOVATIONS include a restaurant, a craft house for the sale of Victorian items and varied modern handcrafts, and an antique salesroom. The restaurant is being directed by Mrs. Le Page.

Area residents responded enthusiastically to a preview opening earlier this month. The museum is open to the public weekends during June, with weekdays reserved for school tours to allow the youngsters full rein to take in the exhibits. A nominal admission fee is charged.

It will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. from July 1 through Labor Day this summer.

PROPOSED FUTURE ADDITIONS include five or six antique shops and an entire crafts village, staffed by artists, within five to ten years. More immediate plans include a picnic area for the school children who bring their lunches. local enthusiasm for the project is high. A direct economic and cultural effect on this part of the state is predicted and for this quiet village of 400, perhaps a return to the prosperity of 1880 when there were some 1,480 residents.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Downeast magazine, September, 1978, Re-Creating a 19th-Century Village

A Passion For Victoriana

Millionaire master mechanic Donald king is re-creating a 19th-century rural village at Newfield in York County.


I remember the toy villages that went with Lionel trains. The rich kids on the block always had one, and they set it up at Christmas. I envied them that---not the train but the little town with its small pine trees dusted with snow, the mirror lakes and ponds, the tiny wooden houses with miniature doors that opened and closed, the diminutive church, and the elfin railroad crossing guard who appeared cheerfully from his building when you pressed a button.

Newfield, just off Route 11 in Maine's York County, brings back those memories. In its center is Willowbrook, named after a small stream and pond encircled by seven acres of clipped lawns and groomed paths [ actually, the brook is names Chellis Brook and the pond is known as the Mill Pond ]. In this small village stand thirty-one freshly painted structures furnished with 18,000 nineteenth-century artifacts, all of them carefully collected from within a hundred miles of Newfield, and all of them faithfully restored. No crab grass grows on the emerald lawns; no graffiti mars the little schoolhouse blackboard. Everything is scrubbed and polished, and each morning when the American flag is raised and the "Star Spangled Banner," is played through the loudspeaker, one is carried back to a time of simple patriotism and to what we now know to be lost forever, even in rural Maine.

The re-creation of a tiny village cost its owner more than anything in a Neiman-Marcus catalog---more than 2 million, and it is not yet completed. it belongs to Donald King, a sixty-four-year-old man with the enthusiasm of a gifted, industrious boy. His voice is rumbly, his language explicit, and no setbacks, one feels, will separate his broad shoulders from the wheel. "I'm no purist," he says. "This isn't a museum. It's an entertainment," although he's quick to add that it's the largest "man's museum" in the country.

However designated, Willowbrook at Newfield is the only nineteenth-century restoration of its kind in the country, and it attracts, despite minimal advertising, thousands of visitors during its season, May to October. Moreover, it is one of the few projects of its magnitude to be entirely financed by private funds. Don King disdains, with something close to contempt, the federal monies that are available for such enterprises. "Why should taxpayers pay for my fun?" he asks. "besides, I can't take it with me, so I might as well put some of it right here." The $14,000 that Willowbrook made last year is a meager return on King's investment. he doesn't care.

He won't raise his admission fee ($3.00 for adults and $1.50 for youngsters over six is half that charged by Sturbridge Village, for example) and he won't skimp on the restoration of any artifacts that enhance the authenticity of his little village. The 1886 [ 1894] carousel currently undergoing refurbishing, horse by horse, with special tools made to re-create the fine carving that had been scabbed and thickened by layers of paint, will take three years before it can be set into place at Willowbrook; by then it will have cost a quarter of a million dollars. Some of the artisans doing the work are local people trained by King.

"I respect a man who can work with his hands," says King, himself a master mechanic." And i like to take something made a hundred years ago and bring it back to its early glory."


Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Donald King was not born to wealth, nor was he formally educated, beyond high school. Like most self-made men, he is endowed with tenacity and self-confidence. He describes with a grin how, during the Depression he succeeded in getting his first job in New York. Presenting himself at R.H. Macy's department store, he was told that there were no jobs available.

"It seems incredible to me," he recalls saying, "that the largest department store in the world wouldn't have any jobs."

"I'm sorry, " said the lady in charge of hiring.

"Well, I don't have anything else to do, so I'll just sit here until a job turns up."

"I don't know when that will be."

"Then that makes two of us," he replied.



And Donald King sat in Macy's employment office until he was given a job. Later, still self-confident and refusing to take "No" for an answer, he married the woman who hired him. His wife, pan, says that she made the job for him because she knew a good thing when she saw it and wasn't about to let it get away.

Although he stayed with Macy's for ten years, eventually working in an executive capacity, Don King was not a man to work for other people very long. With a large appetite for acquiring skills, he undertook jobs that eventually qualified him as a master mechanic in an engineering company; from there he moved into the copper tubing industry; and then, sensing the needs of the future, he entered the expanding world of the oil industry and worked as a salesman for a Texas company. "I believe in learning everything from the bottom up," he says. In March, 1951, he started his own company, Lubrication Engineers, now based in Fort worth, Texas, which produces special oils for servicing of atomic submarines, truck fleets, and the like.

He puts on a suit and tie when he flies to Fort Worth every ninety days for a board meeting of his company (he is executive vice president of Lubrication Engineers, which employs 500 people), and he puts on a suit and tie every Sunday in Newfield when he attends church. But at Willowbrook, where he is often and not unhappily mistaken for one of the maintenance crew, Don King wears wrinkled chinos and drives a Datsun pickup truck. his Rolls Royce, which he has driven only ninety miles in the past three years, stands in a closed garage.


An avid hunter, King first came to Newfield in 1965 when he purchased land and buildings in order to set up a hunting lodge. The lodge is still there, ornamented with mounted deer heads and sportsmen's photographs, overlooking a pond and willows. At the time, he did not realize that the property he had purchased constituted , in essence, a town. Newfield, once prosperous, with a population of close to 2,000 in the 1880s, had fallen victim to changing times; blacksmiths, no longer needed, abandoned their forges. Then in 1947, the coup de grace, a raging fire that destroyed thousands of acres in York County and other parts of Maine. Newfield was in the path.


When Don King arrived, the population was less than 100, as it is today. "When I bought land and buildings so as to have a place for hunting," King explains, "I didn't know I'd bought part of a town until one day a local person stopped by and asked. 'Why did you buy the center of town?"

"I looked around the derelict town and said, "Beats hell outa me."

"When the lady said I nshould do something with it, I decided she was right."

So the construction and reconstruction of Willowbrook began the next year, 1968, and the seven-acre village within a town was opened to the public in the spring of 1970. Since then it has continued to grow. King and his craftsmen work through the winter (("Summer's when I relax," he says, "and winter is work"), preparing new buildings and restoring artifacts. A maverick King might be, but he does nothing halfway.

Two renovated houses are fine examples of lifestyles in the Victorian era. One old homestead had been the residence and office of Dr. Isaac Trafton, for many years a respected but hardly affluent member of the Newfield community. Here the visitor can see how a modest country life was lived: the drab physicians office, the oil lamps in the parlor, the family kitchen, the tin bathtub. On the parlor wall is a portrait of Dr. Trafton's wife, unbendingly dour as she sat for a daguerreotype. But the house suggests memories of happy times, too, its upstairs nursery filled with nineteenth-century toys.


Through his insights, energy, and taste, Don King has managed to combine elements in willowbrook that widely reflect attitudes in the 1800s. There are visible evidences of merriment and even occasional hints of ribaldry; pervasive overtones of theology; and glum reminders that death was a frequent visitor. "The house may be wee but the welcome is big," reads a cheerful sampler in one bedchamber; "Sweet Rest in Heaven," another promises, but only to the virtuous, one suspects.

Across the road from the Trafton homestead is the Durgin house, the last large dwelling spared from the 1947 fire. More spacious and elegant than its neighbor across the street, it had once been an inn and bedchambers for travelers have been refurbished. Furnishings are graceful, even extravagant, with the dining table set for a many course meal, and one can almost fee the dim presence of guests in fine silks. buy again, a momento mori: the front door is unusually wide "so that coffins could be carried through, King points out.

The huge Durgin barns now house displays of old crafts, and in one loft are period carriages and sleighs; in the barn cellars are collections of early farm machinery including equipment ranging from a huge snow roller to the little treadmill on which a bored goat once plotted to churn butter.

In the sprawling complex that surrounds the old Trafton house, visitors can see the Fenderson Schoolhouse, a replica of the one built in South Parsonsfield in 1810 [1839]. A photograph of Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington hangs on the wall, and a chart indicates that the metric system was taught to our grandparents too. The school-bell rope is there for the pulling, and not a child goes through the schoolhouse without giving it a tug. King confesses that he has had to stifle the sound of the bell just a little for his own peace of mind.

Offering evidence of nineteenth-century trades are a barbershop, a print shop, a photographer's emporium, the Silas P. Hardy bicycle shop, and a toy shop carrying Hill's Alphabet Blocks and a Put-Together Puzzle Book. If Life was more simple a century ago and possessions harder to come by, human needs seem remarkably unchanged. the vast ballroom above Willowbrook's country store echoes with memories of dancing, music, flirtations. Military memorabilia on display recall that sons have always been hostage to wars, their loss a grief to family and friends. But then a collection of old bicycles cheerfully brings to mind the adolescent "Look, Ma! no hands! a boast that must have sounded as proudly a hundred years ago as it does today.

Displays of carpentry tools, early farm machinery, heating equipment, gas and steam engines (a "man's museum," indeed), restored carriages and sleighs, and the last horse drawn hearse of Newfield all command the attention and marveling interest of visitors. There is something to divert every generation, and a restaurant and ice cream parlor on the grounds provide welcome respite for exhausted nostalgia buffs.

Donald King, in his handyman garb, watches the visitors touring his village. He especially enjoys the reactions of the elderly, for willowbrook provides so many direct links with their remembered past.

"You mean," a boy asks his grandmother, who is looking at a collection of early washing machines, "that you had one like that old contraption?"

"Do you really remember those?" another asks his octogenarian great-aunt who is looking fondly at an ancient sewing machine.

Wicker baby carriages. Chamber pots. Clothing with bustles. Glass milk bottles. Early baseball bats---and the lathes on which they were made. A tiny tricycle which, an old gentleman recalls, was known as a velocipede.

For Donald King it has not been an urge to live in a far-gone time that has impelled him to restore Willowbrook at his own expense. he had done it out of love for Maine and a respect for some virtues of the past: hard physical work, meticulous craftsmanship with its precise attention to detail, that seem sadly lacking in today's plasticized society. but his own hard-earned fortune that made possible Willowbrook's creation is a twentieth century one, coming as it did from great advances in technology. The Newfield home of King and his wife is a century-old farmhouse which, apart from a few fine antiques, makes no concessions to the past. An enclosed pale blue pool, and the sternly functional leather furniture arranged near a huge fireplace, are far removes from the old swimming hole and the scratchy horsehair of Victorian parlors.

Nor is Donald King's demeanor a relic of another more reticent age. Bluff, free spoken, a dynamo of energy, he speaks of his enterprise with offhand modesty. "I don't want to be King of anything," he says, and means it. His justifiable pride rests wholly in the painstaking re-creation of a forgotten way of life, its simple industries and crafts, its crude domestic inventions once presumed to have lightened the householder's burdens. Pride there, yes, but greater is his anticipation of projects lying ahead: a broom making shop, a canoe factory, a horse-drawn ice wagon, a cooperage....Will any of the old trades practiced in rural Maine in the 1800s be omitted, one wonders? And before the thought is raised the answer is at hand: Not if donald King has anything to do with Willowbrook at Newfield.  

 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Oct. 3 & 4, Blacksmithing: Knife Making; Oct. 17, 24, 31, Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class

September 26, 9-5. Make a Metal Casting Furnace or Blacksmithing Forge. We supply the materials, tools, and know-how to create a functioning furnace or forge. The class involves cutting a metal tank for the purpose, welding ( we do that), and forming an interior chamber inside the tank for refractory cement with Sana tube and cardboard. We are using refractory rated at over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.We provide the the 10 PSI regulator as well as a propane delivery valve that we have created for the purpose. This takes all of 7 hours to create. The refractory will need to dry for a week or so but will set up by the end of the class. See photos. $300 Complete. 

October 3 & 4, 9-3.  Make a Bowie Knife or Puukko Hunting Knife. Form a blade and handle tang from high carbon steel. Learn the process of shaping, hardening, tempering, filing and polishing with master bladesmith Adriaan Gerber. make one or two knives depending on your productivity. This is a class intended for the beginner touching upon the basics of hand forging. Ticket to our Octoberfest, Oct. 3, 4-7:30 with tuition. $195 Call: (207) 793-2784, director@willowbrookmuseum.org

October 17, 24, & 31, 9-3. Antique Engine Repair & Maintenance Class. This is our second class with antique engine mechanics Russ Welch and Doug Kimball. Learn the mechanics and the ignition systems of make n' brake/ one lunger/ hit n' miss engines. We take 'em apart and put them back together, replace and sometimes fabricate parts. A must for the budding hobbyist. You can take one class or all three. We are starting with a 7HP Economy engine. $195, (207) 793-2784,

See an article in Popular Mechanics that was informed by bladesmith Adriaan Gerber. He is an expert on how to sharpen edge tools. See some of his edge tools in the right and left columns of this blog.

Click this to enlarge it in order to read it.






























Yankee magazine, June 1988, Traveler's Journal, "Willowbrook at Newfield"

When you enter Willowbrook, you not only step into the mid-19th century, but you also step into the glorious obsession of one man. Donald King, a Massachusetts native who made his fortune in Texas-based lubricants [oil drilling], came to Newfield, a village tucked against the Maine-New Hampshire border, in the mid-1960s. his intent was to turn an old farmhouse into a hunting camp for his business friends. Soon King became intrigued by the area's history. He found that Newfield was once Maine's most prominent carriage-sleigh-building center, home to at least 13 blacksmiths, seven harness makers, 17 cabinet makers, and several dozen shoemakers. The results of their labors and the tools of their trades languished in barns and fields. King, who once said, "I have a great appreciation for anyone who works with his hands, and the 19th century was the last great era for that," thought he would make a small farm museum from the stuff he saw just lying around. Soon he had filled four buildings. "Nobody in Maine ever throws anything out," he said.

His hobby became a full time occupation. firmly hooked, King poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his "restoration village" that opened in 1970, and nothing delighted him more than to emerge from the workshop, khaki pants stained with grease, and stick out his hand to a startled tourist and boom, :Hi, I'm Don King. I built this!"

"This," at the time of his death in 1985, was 33 separate exhibits, and the only 19th-century museum of its kind in the country. Visitors are on their own to roam with a detailed self-guiding pamphlet. ("On your right you will see a large iron wheel straightener used by a blacksmith when he was repairing wheels. The rim of the wheel was placed on the hub until the wheel became straight once again...") Since Willowbrook is spread across seven country acres, comfortable walking shoes are advised. "Allow at least three hours," says Georgia Perry, Willowbrook's long time director. "and that's seeing it really fast. That's walking."

Where to begin? There are two homesteads, a school, a carriage house, barns, bicycle shop, barbershop, photography shop, country bank, a room devoted to the evolution of heaters from wood to kerosene, early fire engines [ Update: the fire trucks were de-accessioned in recent years] , cobbler shop, laundry room, cider mill, and shed after shed of lovingly restored farm exhibits. You sit in the shade of the willow trees and listen to the older people who throng past. "When I was a youngster, we had one of those." a pause. "But I threw it away."

In the Amos Straw Country Store there is a barrel where 60 cents will buy a fat juicy pickle. There are cheese wheels, jellies, catnip, rock candy, and, yes, real penny candy. A restaurant, set in a restored barn with paddle fans swirling gently above, looks out upon a bridge across a brook; adjoining is an ice cream parlor with wrought-iron furniture and Tiffany lamps.

Willowbrook is named for the willow trees that shade the brook and millpond. There may be no finer setting for a picnic than by the stone wall that circles the pond, looking out to a scene straight from, say 1875.

Willowbrook has its critics, mostly historical purists, who say that what King created was his idealized version of the past, everything being in sparkling new condition. The critics never fazed King who said, "We like to think of Willowbrook as entertainment, too." His philosophy lives on in the village he created. Every day Willowbrook opens its doors with a drum roll played over the loud speakers, followed by "The Star-Spangled Banner."

To go: Willowbrook is right off Route 11 with signs pointing the way. Take exit 2 off the Maine Turnpike, then 109 west to 11. Open daily May 15-Sept. 30, 10-5. Adults $4.75., ages 6-18 $2.75. The Christmas Etcetera Giftshop, with all items selected by Pam [sic: Pan] King, is considered one of Maine's leading souvenir shops and is the only corner of Willowbrook that remains open until December 23. For details about tours and special group rates call 207-793-2784.

Editor's note: Research for the above was provided by Joyce butler (Old York). Mel Allen (Willowbrook at Newfield), James Dodson ( Owls Head Transportation Museum), and Voscar (Lumberman's Museum).

Thursday, September 3, 2015

19th Century Village Restoration Set To Open For Second Season [ Portland Press Herald, April 27, 1971]

Remember---Farm implements of every type and description can be found in the special farm implement display area of the Newfield restoration project, Willowbrook at Newfield. One of the unique pieces is an old snow roller seen here in back of the horse drawn manure spreader. Snow rollers were used in hamlets throughout the country before the dawn of the gasoline engine.

19th Century Village Restoration Set To Open For Second Season

Newfield---Willowbrook at Newfield, a unique restoration and re-creation of a 19th century village, will open for its second season May 1.

Said to be the only 19th century village museum of its kind in this country, it will open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through October 1.

The laborious restoration work continued all through the winter. men and women often worked in subzero weather in unheated buildings.

[Georgia Perry, Director-Curator] ...to our craft shop area, and completed an unmarried maiden's room in our Dr. Isaac Trafton House."

The major objective of the project, she pointed out, "is to preserve a part of our heritage that might have been lost. Most importantly, we want to bring the presence of a bygone era to today's youngsters."

She also reported that a major recruitment program is under way to attract visiting school groups, church groups, Boy and Girl Scout troops and youth groupsof every type. Organized group tours of such youngsters, as well as other special groups, such as senior citizens, are admitted at reduced group rates.

mrs. perry pointed out that some of the most avid patrons last summer were senior citizens. "It was amazing to see some of these people come back four or five times during the season and just sit under a shady tree and drink in the 19th century atmosphere. " she added.

The Willowbrook Village, complete with general store, one room schoolhouse, completely restored houses, shops, displays of buggies and sleighs, clothing of the period and a myriad of 19th century paraphernalia, is the brainchild of Massachusetts business executive Donald F. King Sr.

king foresaw the possibilities that existed here when he purchased one of the buildings about five years ago---with a hunting camp in mind.

"Since work began in 1967, this dream, combined with a labor of love, a never ending investment of money and just plain hard work, has finally become a reality," he said during a recent interview.

king is a perfectionist and insists on complete authenticity. "And we aren't finished yet," he stated. "A crew of at least 10 workers has continued throughout the winter, doing all those jobs necessary to keep any village in shape. Just the routine carpentry, painting and fix-up projects are a major undertaking."

"These are the basics," he continued, "I have a major development plan that will put Newfield on the map nationally as a true historic site. Its going to take us time and more money to complete the project, however.

'My plans for the next five years are still in the works at this point and are not quite ready to be announced. I can assure everyone, however, that what we do at Willowbrook will be done tastefully and in only the finest traditions of an educational and nostalgic museum.

"Willowbrook at Newfield will never become another 'honky-tonk' tourist attraction, the community, the environment and the serene peace of a quiet Maine village must remain intact," he stressed.

Mrs. G.A. Perry, director-curator, pointed out that much has been accomplished since last summer.

"We have restored six additional carriages, including one owned by Maine's first governor William King; completed a new carriage display area; completed a new baby carriage display and toy display and included new objects in virtually hundreds of small areas throughout the village, she reported.

We have also completely refurbished our antique shop, included both a small gift shop and a Victorian furniture shop.

Nursery in the Dr. Isaac Trafton Homestead at Willowbrook, Newfield, includes a variety of toys, dolls and and "things for the children" that will delight the youngsters and bring back memories of another era to senior citizens. The only 19th Century Village Museum of its kind in the country, Willowbrook is a complete village depicting life in Newfield during its peak. It is located just off Route 11 in Newfield and includes the Durgin Homestead, built in 1813; the Trafton Homestead, constructed in 1851, the Amos Straw Country Store, opened in 1859; craft shops, restaurant, antique shop, Victorian furniture shop, one-room school and many collections such as restored carriages, buggies, sleighs, clothing, equipment of period artisans, and everyday household necessities. Willowbrook is open through October 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a wee k. There is a nominal charge.

Off to Willowbrook: Over 80 third graders from both Lincoln and Hamlin Schools in Springvale spent a day at Willowbrook, Newfield, the only 19th Century museum of its kind in the country. Here, left to right, Patrick Knight, 27 Island avenue, Sanford Renee McKenney, 13A Old Mill Road, Sanford, and Mike Wentworth, wells Road, Sanford, board the bus. They are all members of Miss Smith's third grade class. Looking on is Mrs. Aan C. Tate, SAPTA Treasurer and a chaperone for the trip which was paid for by the Springvale Association of Parents and Teachers as one of its special projects.

The Carpentry Shop is one of the many displays of 19th Century Americana to be seen at Willowbrook Museum at Newfield, which will open this Saturday, May 1, for its second season. Willowbrook is a village in itself and is the only 19th century village museum of its kind in the nation. Although it already presents an amazing complete picture of life of that era, there are plans to develop the village further during the next five years, according to the owner, Massachusetts business executive Donald F. King, Sr.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cider Mill at Willowbrook

This cider mill is nearly completed after much work over the last year and a half. Receiving funding from the Davis  Family Foundation and the Narragansett Number One Foundation the project required a complete reconfiguration of a one time static exhibit of the 1870s Webber & Haviland twin screws that were cast in the Waterville Iron Works. The longtime configuration in an open shed at the museum had the 8 x8 vertical supports of the press buried in the ground. These were rotted off and had compromised the safety of the structure.The press plate was configured with a field stone walled pit below it that presumably cider would run into a bucket placed there. This configuration was abandoned for our new presentation which is modeled after a more common set-up from the period; we found a similar press in situ in nearby Limington, and using that as a reference we chose to create a free standing structure that could be placed on a hard surface. Among the parts of the press that have been preserved is the elm horizontal beam which is presumably original but maybe an early replacement. These metal pressing screws may have simply been purchased and then configured by the farmer from wood available rather than coming as a complete press. Our apple crusher is from the late 19th century, and this was also re-wooded. Oak was used for the crusher whereas the mortise and tenon framework of the press was done in hemlock. This wood was chosen because it was easy to work with and when dry becomes as durable as any hardwood. All the mortises and tenons were hand cut by Adriaan Gerber of Mariahville. The hemlock timbers came from Stillwater, ME and were harvested only days before Mr. Gerber began work on the mortises and tenons. The framework was raised last Fall on a concrete slab which was in part donated by Carroll Cement of Limerick. We installed a drain in the slab, as it is our intention to have working cider mill. This would require frequent cleaning so the drain will prevent a build up of the water we will be using. The most recent work to the project was the creation of the platform which was built off of the 8 x 8 pedestal feet of the structure. The structure is held together with wooden pegs fabricated at Willowbrook by staffer Ashley Gerry. The last part of the project will be the construction of timber cribbing to raise the apple crusher to a height just above the square lattice pressing box. A platform and sluice way will allow cider and apple pulp to be pushed into the box without any waste for pressing. The plate below the lattice box has a channel carved in it with a drainage hole connected to a two inch PVC pipe that allows cider to be piped to the front of the platform you see here. The cider will empty into collecting buckets.



Acquisitions: Wooden Metal Casting Patterns from Hackett's Machine Shop, Brewer, Maine

This past winter I got wind that there was a sizable collection of wooden metal casting patterns in the basement of a commercial building in downtown Bangor. A call came from Bruce Bowden, museum director of The Curran Homestead Living History Museum in Orrington, ME who shared that these metal casting patterns had to be out of a space in Bangor where they were being stored as soon as possible. At the time I was unable to trek to Bangor to claim any of these objects which I knew would greatly complement both our ongoing metal casting program at Willowbrook and serve as a wall exhibit in our period machine shop that we were in the midst of completing. Fortunately, a large portion of the patterns went to The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum in Orrington, ME that day. These patterns had been originally part of the  inventory of Hackett's Machine Shop in Brewer, ME; the shop which did machining, metal casting of parts as well as steam boiler fittings closed its' doors in the early 1980s. The metal casting  patterns were donated shortly thereafter to Leonard's Mills, Maine Logging and Forestry Museum  in Bradley, ME, that put them into storage. The ownership of a portion of the  patterns was recently waived, and the owner of the building where they were stored offered them to area museums. The Curran Homestead received a portion but there were still many patterns left in the Bangor building that were destined for the dumpster. I eventually got to the site and with the aid of Bruce Bowden filled a Subaru Outback and The Curran Homestead's minivan.  I was thrilled with the idea of having these patterns in the collection as they had both aesthetic and educational value for Willowbrook. the patterns were stored  in Eddington, ME temporarily where they remained until this weekend. The bulk of the patterns were for the casting of replacement parts for such things as commercial wood planers, shingle mills, wood rolling devices, commercial laundry equipment, and other large machines. The collection represents the variety of castings that a small New England machine shop might achieve at the beginning to mid 20th century when fixing machines was more often the first choice to replacing them. Among the patterns received by The Curran Homestead was a part for an early Harley Davidson motorcycle and legs for an industrial/shop table with raised letters identifying it as a casting from the "Bangor Iron Foundry". The pieces that Willowbrook received will be cleaned by volunteers from Massabesic High School ( Waterboro) today. During the course of this cleaning we will learn more of the story behind these patterns as paper tags attached with string and identifications stamped into the wood surfaces of some of the patterns remain. We hope to have these on exhibit this Fall and Winter in our Machine Shop as we will be offering our Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class in October as well as more metal casting classes that could include creating castings in bronze and aluminum of some of the smaller patterns now in the collection.



The project gets a jump start with the offer of volunteer assistance the day after the metal casting patterns came to Willowbrook. Our volunteer crew did a light cleaning with Murphy's oil soap. The patterns still had a coating of sand casting compound on them as well as 30 plus years of dust and dirt which made for a good days work for our two volunteers: Alyssa Crowell, a senior at Massabesic High School and sophomore Kiessa Treadwell of Bonny Eagle High School. They did a fine job and were  attentive to the necessity to preserve pencil marks and other ephemeral labeling on the patterns.


On Friday, August 28, 2015, staffer Marlene Gerry started the tedious work of attaching the wooden patterns to the wall surfaces of our new Machine Shop. Given the dark finish on the patterns, black cinch ties are being used. A staple is put into the wall surface with a hammer and the plastic tie is threaded through it and around parts of each pattern; the tie is cinched attaching the pattern to the wall securely but not harming the light wooden patterns in any way.  Given the eclecticism of the collection, we are arranging these randomly reminding me of the arrangements of keys and hardware at the old Barnes Collection site outside of Philadelphia. Barnes created a unique aesthetic for arranging and appreciating his collection of  fine art masters like Matisse and Renoir, to name a few; this included paintings arranged linearly and  in proximity to collections of antique keys, locks, and hand forged hardware. These patterns new to the Willowbrook Collection on the unpainted white pine walls are very much like modern sculpture with their organic curves and shapes. They will be fitting surroundings for the classes that will begin this Fall starting with our second Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class on October 17, 24 & 31, 9-3PM. 
This photo of the Riddell Barn, a relocated structure from Newburgh, NY in my native Orange County, NY, is at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The photo is from the Shelburne Museum's 1963 catalog ; I have had this catalog probably since I was a teenager, and it is presently held together with rubber bands. I  have never been to the Shelburne Museum; in fact, the plan was to go this summer. There's still time.  The objects depicted on the walls of this barn are wooden metal casting patterns for the parts to a small brass steam engine used on 19th century Hudson River launches. A small backyard machine shop was able to create from scratch such a sophisticated engine, and really this is the phenomena that goes straight to Willowbrook's own mission albeit Northern New York and not New England. Yankee ingenuity was not confined to one region or state but is indicative  of our American can do culture.  Knowledge of this photo and the story behind this has been the driving force behind my interest in metal casting and the inspiration for this current element to our working machine shop project. Now if we can just get our hands on these patterns at the Shelburne, maybe a loan agreement (?), it would be a wonderful project to both accomplish and video document the process of making a working model of this steam boat engine once again through our own metal casting operation and the talents of Peter Grant of Odd Duck Foundry. Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

19th Century Willowbrook Village's Agricultural Fair Weekend, August 15 & 16

19th Century Willowbrook Village’s Agricultural Fair Weekend, Aug. 15 & 16

Pie Making Contest Entrees Needed

It can be any kind of pie of your liking. Submit the pie to the Country Store between 10AM and 12NOON Saturday, AUGUST 15. The judging, based on appearance, crust, filling, and originality, will begin 12:30PM. Prizes will be awarded for First, Second and Third Prize.

Entrees of ART, Photography, and Vegetables and Fruits are sought. Your entry will be on display in the museum’s orientation room. Drop off for your entry begins Thursday, August 13, 10-5 and ends Sat., Aug. 15 at 11AM. Your entrees will be under lock and key and on view until Sun., Aug.16, 2PM when judging and prizes in each category will awarded and posted on our Facebook and on our website.

Further information can be sought by calling (207) 793-2784 during museum hours.