Curator's Choice. The Old Constitution House has been collecting rare and unusual items from the Windsor, Vermont region for more than a century. This special exhibit highlights some of our favorite pieces in the collection, a few of which have never been publicly shown! Opens June 15.
According to historical records, Elijah West’s tavern had three rooms on the main floor. The tap room, or public bar, would have had its own entrance, so that the “public” could come and go without disturbing the diners or overnight guests. The tap room was where men gathered to drink, socialize, and discuss issues and events – it is said that more politics occurred in the tap room than at town meetings! Among the interesting artifacts in this room are the table believed to be the one around which the Windsor Convention delegates gathered, and the 1772 New York Charter for the town of Windsor that was granted by King George III.
This room was added when the building was restored in 1914. It served as a tea (lunch) room for visitors until the building was given to the State of Vermont in 1961. The exhibition here, “A Free and Independent State,” serves as an excellent introduction to the site. Artifacts include a rare copy of the sermon delivered at the 1777 Windsor Convention, cannon ball and grapeshot from Mount Independence, and a Revolutionary War period cartridge box.
This space is notable in that it lacks a hearth, the principal means of cooking in the 18th century. However, because the building served as a tavern until the 1840s, the kitchen would have had a much more efficient cook stove. This “Conant Stove,” made in Brandon, Vermont in 1819, illustrates the transformation that took place in the science of cooking during the 19th century. On the work table is a device, the identity of which is guaranteed to be the most asked question on a typical tour!
This room is set up to host a small dinner party. But, like many rooms in an early tavern, it could be converted to sleeping space if necessary. That might explain why the table appears low to the floor – the legs have lost a couple of inches because it was frequently moved back and forth. (You’ll see several chairs in the collection with the same type of wear.) The tall clock was made by Martin Cheney in Windsor, c. 1810. Because the dial and works were imported from England, tall clocks were among the most expensive household furnishings. Ask your guide why it is called a “tall clock.”
According to historical records, there was a formal sitting room on the main floor of the original tavern. The furnishings here are typical of a parlor around 1840. This room would have been used by visitors who wished a more private setting than the public bar. Meals would often be served. Guests could read by the fire or use the desk for writing letters or transacting business. The desk and bookcase was made locally, c. 1810, and is believed to have belonged to Jesse Lull, a prominent Windsor citizen. The piano was made by Jehiel Munson of Burlington, Vermont, c. 1845. What makes this “square” piano different from modern pianos? Can you guess what material was used to make the ornamental tree under the glass dome?
This was used both as a bedroom and as a meeting room. The bedstead is “grained painted” – a painting technique used to imitate more expensive wood. The framed allegorical on the wall is a fine example of American folk art, inspired by a well-known school text of the time.
In many early inns, the upper chambers could be used as bed chambers, dormitories, and for entertainment or as meeting rooms. Although there is some controversy concerning the details of the Windsor Convention, several reports indicate that the delegates reconvened in this upper chamber to adopt the Constitution. Exhibits in this room feature various aspects of the collection: ceramics, glass, iron, etc.