Jamaica Historical Society to reopen its building


JAMAICA -- With winter finally over, the Jamaica Historical Foundation building will be reopened soon.

"Seven years ago, we had two small boxes upstairs in the firehouse that we didn't even know what was in them," said Karen Ameden, president of the Jamaica Historical Society. "Now we have a whole building filled with exhibits and memorabilia from Jamaica. It's really quite amazing what we have collected along the way."

The group will open the doors of the Jamaica Historical Foundation to the public on May 31. It is located inside the Historic West River Bank Building on Main Street. The building will be open on Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is closed during the winter unless there is a special appointment.

On May 8, a senior luncheon group will tour the foundation's old brick building, which will open around noon. Anyone can attend either part of the event.

This year, the historical society received a spinning wheel from the Crowninshield family that was dated to 1806.

At Jamaica History Day on Aug. 23, there will be a demonstration of the spinning wheel led by two fiber artists from Rhode Island, Richard Muto and David Lima. According to new historical society board member Alice Abraham, the workshop will demonstrate spinning and weaving techniques.

Both men previously conducted a fiber arts workshop for children during the summer reading camp at Jamaica Memorial Library last year.

The historical society has also recently received various signs and civil war memorabilia. One of the signs was from a jewelry store that was located in Rawsonville.

Old stone boats that farmers used to haul stones to build walls will be on display at the building. There will be other displays involving trains, banks, floods, a Native American tribe and household items from the 1800's.

"We're getting inundated, which is a good thing, by all these objects, photos, letters and books," said Abraham. "Some objects are so big, it's kind of like, ‘Where can we put them?'"

There will also be an exhibit based on Helen and Scott Nearing, two back-to-the-landers who moved to Jamaica in the 1950s. They had advocated for simple living and social justice.

The historical society has made archives of records and photographs available online at jamaicahf.info. Photographs include houses, people, trains, maps and buildings.

Members of the historical society are currently in the process of writing a book about floods that had occurred in Jamaica throughout history.

In addition to keeping up with the building and website, the group conducts many interviews on film.

"We are trying to go through every building in the town and document it," said Ameden. "It may be a building that was there 200 years ago and isn't there any longer. We have the village pretty well set. Now, we're working on the other buildings."

The group is always looking for volunteers.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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