At the time it was purchased, the Barre Historical Society building was painted dark red with white shutters and trim. Today, it has been restored to a more authentic palette of white with green shutters.
The front foyer was renovated in 1982 as a memorial to Elisabeth Gariepy, one of the Society’s incorporators. The graceful circular staircase is one of the characteristic features of houses designed by Elias Carter. A doorway (in the old kitchen) behind the stairs reveals the execution of the exceptional construction. Carvings surrounding the front door (both inside and outside) and throughout the house are original to the early 19th century.
To the left of the foyer as you enter the building is likely the most original room in the house. After the untimely passing of devoted long-time member and Curator Gabrielle Healy Carroll in December, 1999, her family gave the gift of having this room restored, redecorated and furnished as a library in her memory (it had previously been used for filing and storage). The crown glass windows and folding interior shutters are distinctive 19th century accents. This room now contains town records, family histories and other research material, plus a collection of first editions from the former Barre Publishers, all in the company of art work and furnishings from the Carrolls’ Broad Street home.
To the right of the foyer is a double front parlor. These rooms currently serve as meeting space and exhibit areas. Rotating, thematic exhibits -- derived from the Society’s collections in storage -- are on display in the parlor section closest to the foyer. Exhibits of 19th and 20th century artifacts are on display in the other section of the parlor. Visitors will note the continued use of interior shutters and carved moldings as seen in other areas of the house.
A Children’s Room is located in the center of the house, on the Northern side. This was likely a small bedroom when the house was built. Now the room is furnished and decorated with early toys, games and dolls that are on permanent display. Younger visitors are invited to play with reproduction games and toys.
The large middle room next to the Children’s Room, with a fireplace and bake oven, was the kitchen when the house was new. It is where all the food was cooked and other household duties were performed by the “woman of the house” or those in her employ. Period kitchen items are on display in the open cupboard. One of the Society’s treasures is a complete set of original 19th century Standards of Weights and Measures for the Town of Barre. At that time each and every community in the Commonwealth had such a set of standards, to regulate commodities and commerce. Very few sets – especially complete ones – exist today. This room also serves as the meeting place of the Society’s Board of Directors.
Heading to the rear of the house from the old kitchen, there is a dining room (now used as a work area), a contemporary kitchen, a business/administrative office, the Curator’s office and a room devoted to the storage of files and photographs. These rooms are not open to the public.
On the second floor, currently not open to the public, more rooms exist to care for and preserve records and objects vital to Barre’s history. At the top of the staircase is the Albert Clark Room, named for the long-time Barre historian and Historical Society Director. This research room contains the Society’s collection of maps, as well as family bibles, diaries, church, school and business records.
Across the hall is a period bedroom and closet areas used to display and conserve costumes and textiles. Down the back hallway is a Curator’s storage area, plus a room set aside for the collection and preservation of objects, documents, school records and photographs from the former Barre High School. There is a small, pass-through closet at the head of the main staircase on the second floor, which is notable for the fact that it still wears its original, hand-blocked wallpaper from 1836, all in good condition.
An attic, which surmounts the area of the original main house, contains still more artifacts and items pertinent to the life and times of Barre.
Leaving the main house and walking into the back yard, the visitor encounters a post-and-beam carriage house built in 2001. It is divided into two section – the Coach House and the Allen Gallery. The Coach House section contains Barre’s historic 1859 Concord stagecoach, the provenance of which has been documented and is available for viewing. It is one of the country’s few remaining 12-passenger stagecoaches still in its original, conserved condition.
The Allen Gallery contains several larger artifacts pertaining to Barre’s history. There is the restored town hearse, used in Barre from 1893 until the early 1930s; an 1842 “Conqueror Engine No. 2” fire department hand-pumper; an early (1830) Acorn printing press, used at one time to print the Barre Gazette; a Yankee Horse Rake, a product manufactured by the Chas. G. Allen Co. from 1873 to 1936; an Allen Co. drilling machine and drill press; and various other Allen Co. agricultural products are on display.