The Rich Tapestry that is Western Massachusetts
Not many people know how many things Springfield, MA has been known for throughout history. “The City of Firsts” has long been known for its rich history as a center for innovation and invention. From the first American musket and the historic Springfield rifle, the first American-English dictionary (Merriam Webster’s), the first successful motorcycle company, the patent for vulcanized rubber, and the second-most-popular sport worldwide (Basketball), Springfield has been and continues to be a newsworthy spot many times over. One such noteworthy and innovative individual was Everett Barney. But what was his claim to fame you might ask, and what would it have to do with me and Bayer Farm?
Everett Hosmer Barney, among other things, was influential in the creation of one of the finest and earliest urban parks in America–Springfield’s Forest Park is still a greenspace gem of the city, and even today visitors can see Barney’s original carriage house and the family mausoleum. Everett himself also was once known as “the man who put America on (ice) skates” and this is where his legacy and Rustic Romance Antiques cross paths.
Picking on History
It’s a warm spring day and I’m out on a barn picking expedition in Deerfield when I come across a box, in excellent condition, with a notable Springfield name: Barney and Berry Co. Already I was excited, but when I opened the box that excitement transformed instantly into delight: here was a pair of pristine, never-used (no scratch marks from wear) of Barney and Berry ice skates!
This find, in and of itself, is a joy. Any time I come across a piece of locally connected history like this, I can’t help but get lost in imagining the life the item lived before it reached me. Sometimes it’s clear the piece in question was well-loved, well-used, and well cared for. Other times, I can’t tell that anyone ever touched it. Either extreme and any state in between leaves plenty of room for historical imagination. Having a pre-existing knowledge of the Barney name and its relationship to the city of Springfield and Forest Park, I wondered whether this mint example of Springfield history would have some extra significance.
Turns out, indeed it did! After quickly researching the skates to try to determine what they might be worth, I posted an enthusiastic “Look what I found!” post on Facebook. Almost immediately a Springfield collector reached out: they wanted to make sure these skates found a home in their collection of Springfield, MA- specific sporting goods. Before they ever made it back to the farm, the skates were sold! But it’s a very happy ending–this piece of Springfield history stayed local, and now resides with a highly-knowledgeable collector.