Happy 100th Anniversary, RHS!

From The Rowley Historical Society Presidents Report for 1919:

On the evening of September 3rd 1918 a company of a dozen or more persons met at the Public Library with Rev. T. Frank Waters, President of the Ipswich Historical Society, who was present by request, and listened to a talk by him wherein he gave encouraging suggestions and advice relative to the formation of a Historical society.

It was then asked that all present who were willing to join such a society should raise their hands. Nearly every hand was raised.

“There,” said Mr. Waters, “you have your Society.”

And at that moment the Rowley Historical Society drew its first breath.

The impetus for the above meeting was the impending destruction of a local 17th-century house. The Platts-Bradstreet House was a two-over-two home built by Samuel Platts before 1677 and occupied by the Platts family until 1771. During their residence the Platts family added the lean-to “new” kitchen along the back. In 1771 the house was purchased by Moses Bradstreet, who added a second story to the lean-to. The Bradstreet family remained in occupancy until 1906, after which time it sat unoccupied. By 1918 the house was in bad shape and plans were made to sell it and tear it down.

The Society

After years of talking about the possibility of forming an historical society, certain citizens acted in order to save the Platts-Bradstreet house. Having held the initial meeting to establish interest, the Rowley Historical Society formed officially, elected officers, attracted the attention of the Society for the Prevention of New England Antiquities, and raised the $1,000 needed to purchase the house before it could be destroyed.

The Society adopted a “pay as we go” policy to approach the repairs needed on the house, opting not to take on debt. An Old Home Gathering fundraiser took place in the summer of 1919, and the Rowley Powley Tea House was opened in the home of Miss Elizabeth Billings, with the intent that all proceeds would go to the restoration fund. The tea house remained open for several years and was the main source of funds for the Society.

By 1920 the house was restored sufficiently to become the home of the Rowley Historical Society, which continues to maintain and preserve the building and its contents. Over time the formal garden in the back was built and planted, the grape arbor installed, and a ladder house and cordwainer’s shop were obtained and added to the property. In 1980 the Society added a two-story ell to the building that houses a small apartment, necessary to keep the house occupied and more closely watched over. That same year paperwork was completed to add the Platts-Bradstreet House to the National Register of Historic Places. The Society also raised sufficient funds to purchase and reconstruct on the property a 1775 post and beam barn that houses an extensive collection of tools and other artifacts.

Flash forward to now and we still are occupying and maintaining this gem from 1677. The house is used for monthly meetings of the RHS Board of Directors as well as for annual spring and fall covered-dish suppers and presentations, an annual Christmas Open House with tours for the local second grade classes, and for RHS events and private tours. We hope to bring in many visitors during our 100th Anniversary celebrations, and we hope you will consider joining us there.

We are very excited about our 100th Anniversary and have many events planned throughout the year. We’re still finalizing some events and adding others, but the calendar to-date is here for your perusal. We hope to meet you some time throughout the year!

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