Located in the Burnett’s Corner historic district of Old Mystic, CT, the Upton Bass barn brings back to life an important part of early American history when small groups of local craftsmen created things with their hands and NOT by importing low cost goods and just opening boxes.
When Gary bought the property that now houses the Upton Bass workshop, he did not plan on resurrecting a historic New England mill. It was a thought he pondered as he came to learn the property, cutting back its overgrown vegetation and unearthing a collapsing stone foundation in the back corner of his land. The stone pillars of the old foundation stood like monuments saying “once, long ago, something was made here by hand like nothing is today”.
As Gary searched New England for a permanent home for Upton Bass, he kept coming back to the stones, and pondering became questioning, and Gary said “what if?”.
In 2010 he started serious research about what was here, how was the property used and when was it last used commercially. Using this research, Gary petitioned the town, and with the support of the neighborhood, the town jumped at the opportunity to save a historic landmark.
In 2012 he broke ground and started the project, and the barn was raised in August of that year. The workshop was moved in October to the post and beam home Gary created for Upton Bass, and once again, things were made here by hand.
A timeline of land use:
1817: Enoch Burrows purchased 10 acres of land from John Hicks. He built two houses, a factory and a dye house.
1834: Enoch Burrows sold land to John Hyde containing 2 houses, a woolen factory and other buildings with machinery of all kinds.
1838: John Hyde sold the property to Silas Watrous. Mill building burned during this time.
Unknown: Silas Waltrous sold the property to Joseph A Lamb who rebuilt the factory and turned it into a shoddy (reclaimed wool) factory.
1881: Ruben Palmer bought the property and ran the Palmer Quilt Factory.
1885: Mill burned in July.
1892: Ruabon T. Palmer Jr. and Tyler R. Palmer sold the property to James Watrous and Stephen H Waltrous.
1907: T.N. Dickinson rented the factory for manufacturing witch hazel.
1910: T.N. Dickinson began using the factory for distilling birch bark used for a flavoring and medicinal purposes (smells like wintergreen).
2010: Plans were made to restore the barn.
2012: Construction began, Upton Bass moved in…