Oxford was known as Manchaug for the first 75 years of the settlement. Missionaries visited in 1656 and felt the area would be a good location for a town because of the rivers, ponds and meadows. In 1686, Huguenots walked from Boston and settled in the area for about 10 years. English colonists arrived in 1713 and established a permanent settlement, calling it Oxford after the town in England.
Sturbridge was built on main roads linking Boston to New York, Providence to Springfield, and Hartford to Providence. The Boston Post Road ran through Sturbridge and in 1754 Benjamin Franklin made a trip to the 28 colonial Post Offices, with a mileage counter of his design mounted on his carriage. Legend states that the milestone in Sturbridge reading ?67 miles to Boston? was placed as a result of Franklin?s trip and mileage record. Sturbridge Common was the site of military drills during the Revolutionary War and again during the War of 1812. The Public House on the Common, built in 1771 and still operating today as an historic inn, was a stopping place for travelers and for teamsters transporting goods by wagon. General Lafayette visited the Public House in 1824. Sturbridge was named to honor one of the first settlers who had come from Sturbridge, Worcester County, England.
There are many annual events in Sturbridge. The Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Shows, also called the Brimfield Flea Markets, is the largest such show with over 4,000 dealers selling their wares on a one mile stretch of Route 20 every May, July and September, and the oldest with over 50 years of continual operation. The Shows are so unique they have been deemed a Smithsonian Treasure. The Harvest Festival is held on the Common and features crafts, baked good, displays and a Scarecrow Festival. Gingerbread Holiday, the Gingerbread House Contest, Maple Days and Summer Concerts on the Common are other annual events in Sturbridge.
Old Sturbridge Village features houses, shops, stores, businesses and meetinghouses around a Common, with a countryside area of farms and shops connected by roads and a covered bridge. The mill neighborhood is sited along the river to power the gristmill (to turn grain into flour and meal), the sawmill to make logs into lumber and the carding mill to turn fleece or cotton into yarn. Heirloom gardens showcase flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruits from the 19th century.
Area points of interest include Capen Hill Nature Sanctuary with 72 acres of trails, a nature library, summer nature camps, wildlife rehab center and live animal exhibits. Science exhibits, zoos, an observatory, planetarium and nature trails can be found at the EcoTarium. The Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary is located on 4000 acres with rare flowers and animals, two museums, and a three mile nature trail. The Quabbin Reservoir, which provides drinking water for Boston, offers fishing, hiking, boating, and picnicking. Rock House Reservation was used by Native Americans as a seasonal hunting camp. Trails take visitors to a pond, massive rock ledges and outcroppings, and a large cave ?house.? Wells State Park, in Sturbridge, is popular for camping and hiking. Walker Pond features a swimming beach for campers only and allows fishing and canoeing. There are 10 miles of trails in the park?s 1400 acres.
The Clara Barton Birthplace Museum, in Oxford, is the birthplace and childhood home of the founder of the American Red Cross. She was called the ?Angel of the Battlefield? for her courage in providing supplies and nursing care to soldiers. Grizzly Adams Grave is the burial site of John Capen Adams, a 19th century bear tamer and animal trainer. The Higgins Armory features weapons and armor from medieval and Renaissance Europe, feudal Japan, and ancient Greece and Rome. Displays also include tapestries, paintings, stained glass and carvings. Armor and period clothing are available to try on. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame follows the history of basketball from the beginning in Springfield, 1891, to present day. Interactive exhibits, virtual reality exhibits and a shoot-out area bring basketball history alive. Notre Dame Church in Southbridge is the largest Romanesque church in New England. The organ, with 3971 pipes, was built in 1916. The church features exquisite artwork, including the bronze relief doors. The Worcester Art Museum houses 5000 years of art, from Egyptian antiquities to Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings to Contemporary art. The museum houses works by Thomas Gainsborough, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Pierre August Renoir and John Singer Sargent. The Worcester Historical Museum features the city?s industrial development and exhibits on the city?s history and the histories of surrounding communities.
Stageloft Repertory Theater, in Sturbridge, is a community based, professional theater offering comedies, musicals and children?s productions. Sturbridge Pottery offers tours of the studio where stoneware, porcelain and Raku works are produced. Tantisques Reservation, also in Sturbridge, was first mined by the Nipmuck Indians in 1633. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a three-quarter of a mile trail leads visitors to the mine. The Arts Center in Southbridge is located in a restored Victorian mansion and features shows, exhibitions, classes, contest, concerts and workshops. The Gateway Players, the area?s oldest community theater group, is based here. The Warren Farm and Sugarhouse has tours of maple sugar production in March.
Six Flags New England is a theme park and a water park, offering rides and attractions for adults and children. Superman ? Ride of Steel was voted the ?Best Coaster on the Planet.? The Worcester DCU Center showcases national and international talent, and hosts trade shows and family entertainment.
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