Historic America

Museum Village Brings the Past Alive

Established in 1950 by Roscoe William Smith, Museum Village in Monroe, New York is a unique open-air historical museum exploring daily life in the nineteenth century through historical dress and reenactments. Visitors can not only interact with people portraying daily life in the period, but also see an extensive collection of nineteenth century material culture, including tools, carriages, fire engines, and household items. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Roscoe William Smith founded the Orange and Rockland Electric Company and lived to be 99 years old. During his long life, he collected hundreds of artifacts, with a particular interest in historic craft tools and mechanical devices. Finally, his wife told him to do something with this stuff or get rid of it, so Smith created the Museum Village as both a way to exhibit his collection and as a window into the past.

In a way, this reminds me of a more organized and purposeful version of Wisconsin’s House on the Rock, which was also created by an obsessive collector. Smith custom built most of the buildings in Museum Village, but there is one log cabin he purchased for $10 and shipped to the site. He died in 1976, but volunteers and employees have kept his dream alive. Many grew up taking field trips to the museum before later deciding to work there.

Probably the coolest item in the museum is a mastodon skeleton, found in nearby Harriman, New York in 1952. Named “Harry,” he is one of three complete specimens of mastodon in the world! Roscoe W. Smith hired a team to excavate the skeleton and carefully reconstruct it. The museum also features a skeletal reconstruction of a megatherium, or Giant Ground Sloth.

Museum Village is located at 1010 State Route 17M in Monroe, New York. Phone: 845-782-8248. Hours vary by season. From July 5, 2017 through August 31, 2017, it is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. At other times of the year, it is open Saturdays and Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and closed Memorial Day weekend and June 21 to July 4. Admission is $12.00 for adults, $10.00 for seniors, and $8 for children ages 4-12.

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