We had been looking forward to visiting Westfield Heritage Village for quite a long time. The last time we had wanted to venture out to Rockton and the Westfield Heritage Village was during a major ice and winter storm. The event sadly was cancelled and so was our trip. Today’s trip was “on”, and the weather brought us 22° sunny warmth with a cool breeze. Volunteers in bright green shirts directed us where to park. I finally got to meet our Village contact, Rondalyn Brown, manager of Westfield Heritage Village. We found out today the Rondalyn had been at the Village for about 33 years. I felt as though I had met a kindred spirit, as we both have a passion for heritage and history. Today she wore vintage black dress, small yellow cap, long white gloves and fancy shoes. This was the wear of 50 years ago in 1964. Today was Westfield Heritage Village 50th Anniversary celebrations.
We were about to start our journey through the Village, when our attention was drawn to the centre of the Village, where a large Gazebo stood with decorative banners. Lots of chairs had been placed under shady trees. We made our way to them. A lively marching band has started to parade around the “Ring Road” that circled around the area where the Gazebo was located. The band was leading a large parade of heritage re-enactors, all dressed in period clothing. A large sheep was led near the front, while a small horse took up the rear. Many vintage cars came next and then numerous vintage tractors. They were bright red, orange, and green, all showing off as they rounded the Village pathway. Taking up the final of the parade was a large steam tractor, pulling a wagon full of visitors. The parade seemed to circle the entire Village twice before the opening ceremonies began.
Rondalyn spoke first followed by dignitaries. We learned a lot about the Village, its history and the pride the Volunteers and committee members contribute to such a wonderful Village. They have many programs for school children, with continuing focus on history, conservation, preservation and the legacies they hope to bring towards the next 50 years. It was fun when they popped the cork of the Champagne. While this was happening, the drumming band drummed, the train whistle blew, the steam tractor and all the tractors tooted their horns and, of course, the crowd cheered!
Now we started our tour. What I might tell you is the Westfield Heritage Village is a neat, tidy, clean Village that makes you feel at home. It has a very relaxed atmosphere. All the re-enactors and interpreters were welcoming, knowledgeable and shared their great knowledge with us. The Village has 45 buildings that all have names and can be located on the map they hand out at the entrance.
MENTION FLAGS WAVING. Usually we travel from the start of a Village making it easier to recall the journey, comparing it to the map and our photos. The best way to discover any event or facility is to experience them in person. However, I want to share a highlights with you. The McRoberts Dry Goods Store had clothing, materials trimmings for creating your own clothing. The second floor depicted working and living area of a seamstress. I could have spent hours in that building, looking at the antique buttons, lace, threads. The displays were neat on tables with mirrors where you could visualize images from the past. The interpreters here were very knowledgeable and friendly too. There were dresses for all sizes and styles.
The General Store was popular today. Candy, goodies, treats; pickles on a stick and cool fresh lemonade were being sold. Outside was an old fashioned popcorn maker and little brown bags were being sold for visitors to enjoy, as they explored the Village. The Drug Store had the most magnificent stain glassed window that shone brightly on this beautiful day. At the Mountsberg Church, built in 1854, music echoed beautifully off the walls as a harp player sat quietly at the front of the church. Visitors were welcome to sit awhile and enjoy the shady rest and soft music. At the Cathcart School, build in 1845, a school teacher was about to give visitors a lesson. I must say, I "skipped" out of there quickly before it began.
Another favorite stop was at the Jerseyville Railway Station. The TH&B Station, originally was located in the village of Jerseyville, was built in 1896 and operated between Hamilton and Brantford. It was also featured in the movie Anne of Green Gables and the television series Road to Avonlea. The station itself had conductors dressed in vintage clothing and you could image taking a journey back in the day. The gardens around the entire Village are beautiful. Red and pink peonies, purple deep rich iris, tons of other flowering plants. The maple trees were plants over 50 years ago for a large and provide great shade.
If we weren’t there for this special occasion, I would highly recommend taking a picnic for the family. What a relaxing time it would be! I image that the fall would be spectacular time to visit the Village. Another favorite building was the Albrecht Seip Boot & Harness Shop. Built in Waterloo County in 1853, the master leather craftsmen opened shops such as this one to meet the increased demand for shoes, harnesses and other leather good’s. The leather shop interpreter was fantastic! He said I "was in great need of help". I had "holes in my shoes" (sandals!) and they were "crooked" (left and right). Gary and I entered the shop to learn what "help" I needed. Long ago shoes had no curves in them. You could buy 3 shoes, no matter. It wasn't until the "Queen Victoria" came to visit Canada and a shoemakers wondered why her shoes had a curve in them. Comfort they were told. Before the "curve" you would wear shoes on either foot. The bottoms had thick leather soles tapped-in with little sticks of thin wood spikes. As the wood expanded over time in the leather sole, they became harder. The leather would never come off. This was way back in the days before they had sticky glues and such. Sadly my favorite leather shoes did wear out recently due to the "sticking" coming out. To bad they weren't made way back when! Also, shoe heals were made with what looked like a horseshoe made of metal. This kept the shoe in good form. Even if the metal wore down over time, the heals could be easily repaired. He interpreter told us that to be sure to have a good pair when going to work in the fields for months at a time. Another shoemaker down the road would most likely not "repair" another shoemaker’s shoes, but would try to sell us another pair. He said he would fix them, but we would be far from home. It was an amazing experience listening and joining in the fun!
We finally had our turn and took a trip on the steam wagon ride around the Village. What a great experience that was. On the ride we were able to see areas of the Village that we missed. After the ride, we walked to a more remote portion of the Village. Live animals – chickens and ducks roamed outside in the barn yard, while a horse and sheep were penned in the barn. We were able to pet the animals and walk amongst them. A train model display and exhibit was going on in another nearby barn, another great experience. The day was getting on and visitors were rushing to get to their final stop for the day. We stopped by the gift shop where I could have spent a lot of time! I love the old fashion toys that bring back many childhood memories. Westfield Heritage Village is a great place for a family day. That fact that we got to enjoy a 50th Birthday was “icing on the cake”! Visiting the Westfield Heritage Village was a great way to spend a delightful day, honouring the past, while looking forward to our future!