SANDWICH — When Randy Harelson talks about the Spring Hill National Historic District, his voice fills with excitement over the neighborhood’s “old-fashioned, friendly feeling.”
“I discovered the area maybe a decade ago when I found Green Briar Jam Kitchen and the Quaker Friends Meetinghouse,” said Harelson, a summer resident of Sandwich. “That’s when I fell in love with Sandwich.”
Her fascination with the neighborhood led Harelson to help create Spring Hill History Day, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The event will cover the district’s two-mile loop and will include sightseeing and presentations by local historians John Cullity and David Wheelock.
Church restoration kicks off History Day
Among the stops on the tour is the Meetinghouse, which has recently been restored. And it was the Meetinghouse, Harelson said, that was the catalyst for Spring Hill History Day.
While the first Meetinghouse was built in 1672, the town of Sandwich donated $135,000 for the restoration of the most recent building erected in 1810. The funds were used by the town’s Community Preservation Fund.
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Due to the city’s generosity, Harelson and other event planners wanted to open the Meetinghouse to the public so they could experience the building after the project was completed.
“We wanted to invite the community to see inside and outside the Meetinghouse,” he said. “Then, of course, other organizations immediately jumped in and said to do a full Spring Hill history tour.”
Adjacent to the Meetinghouse, Cullity will present the history of the first East Sandwich at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the Friends Community House.
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Other sights to see
Attendees will also be able to visit the Wing Fort House, which was built in 1641, and historian and caretaker Wheelock will give tours of the house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Because the Wing family is hosting a family reunion, attendees will also be able to meet the descendants of Stephen Wing, who was a Quaker in Sandwich, born in 1621, according to a Wing family website.
The tour will also extend to the Thornton W. Burgess Society Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen, which was originally built in 1780 and run as a tea house by Ida Putnam.
“The great success of the teahouse has been its jams and jellies. She (Putnam) realized that she would be better off with the jams and jellies once in a while, rather than trying to keep up with the vagaries running a teahouse,” Harelson said. “She perfected recipes and she never stopped working in this business until her death in 1951.”
Upon Putnam’s death, Martha Blake purchased the jam shop and ran it until 1979, when she sold it to the Burgess Society. On Spring Hill History Day, Blake’s nephew, Brad Blake, and his family will share memories of Martha Blake. Strawberry shortcake workshops will also take place during the event.
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“The building has had amazing continuity and has only changed owners three times,” Harelson said.
Shirley Cross’s house opens for the first time
The Shirley Cross house is also a stop on the Spring Hill History Day tour, Harelson said. Cross was a locally renowned botanist, who designed a wildflower garden for the Thornton Burgess Society. The “living museum,” and a one-third acre garden in front of the 1780 farmhouse, includes about 300 plants, according to the Thornton Burgess Society website. His home, maintained by his family, has recently undergone renovations and will be open to the public.
“Nearly 50 years ago, she was teaching native plants. She was ahead of her time,” Harelson said. “She passed away and her son and his wife now live in the family home and they will show it for the first time. It is a beautiful antique house.
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Cross also donated part of his land now known as Shirley’s Woods to the Sandwich Conservation Trust. During the visit, the area will be open for walking with goalkeeper Steve Touloumtzis.
From there, the tour will also take attendees to sites they may not have seen before, Harelson said, such as the first Quaker cemetery which sits behind a private home.
“Some of the Quakers in the area haven’t even seen it before,” Harelson said. “It will not be available at another time.”
Sandwich steeped in history
For Harelson, who spends most of the year in Louisiana, the neighborhood itself is steeped in history with early adherents of the Quaker faith immigrating to East Sandwich in 1657, four years after the founding of the town. That’s why the neighborhood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
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“This community of Quakers has managed to stay here and worship ever since,” he said. “And the first meeting of Friends in America was held here. It is the oldest continuous Quaker meeting in North America.
For Cape Town residents, Harelson said, Spring Hill History Day will be an opportunity for visitors and locals to learn about Sandwich and its associated past.
“I’m a big lover of Spring Hill and Cape Cod because of the tremendous amount of history that has taken place here. I often think of the people who walked these sleepy roads 200 years ago,” a- he declared. “For people who love history and old Cape Cod, this is the place to visit.”