History and Mission Statement
The Northfield Historical Society collects, preserves and
interprets Northfield History for the use, education and
enjoyment of present and future generations.
In 1940, William Lybrand, a summer resident of Northfield, presented to the town his collection of antique tools and kitchen utensils that were typical of those used in Northfield in pioneer times. This collection had first been displayed in the Northfield municipal building and later in the Brown Public Library.
At the 1969 town meeting it was voted to form a Town History Committee to update the 1878 John Gregory book, 1776-1886 : Centennial Proceedings and Historical Incidents of the Early Settlers of Northfield, VT., with Biographical Sketches of Prominent Business Men ... The Committee members would be appointed by the selectmen. From then until the book was published in 1974 as Green Mountain Heritage : the Chronicle of Northfield, Vermont, the town provided the finances, and on publication received all the revenue.
In the process of writing the book, the Committee collected some 1,000 photographs of Northfield, glass and film negatives, historical publications, and much memorabilia. This was stored in the then Headmaster's Office and was transferred to the Museum when it was moved to the Center School in 1978. The Center School was built in 1830 by David Lane, of bricks he had made himself. The building was used as a school until the Society moved there. The aforementioned Lybrand Collection and the Town History Committee material remained in the possession of the town.
The Northfield Historical Society was organized in 1973 as part of Northfield's observances of the United States Bicentennial.
One of the purposes of the Society was to be a depository of historical items and to establish a Museum where the items would be available for display and educational and historical study. Since the Museum's establishment at the Center School, many items were added from private sources, making the collection historically valuable to the town of Northfield and its residents.
However, the Center School was still owned by the school district, and in May of 1987 the Northfield School Board recommended selling the Center School. The Society was concerned about losing its lease. In 1993 the Society began to explore other locations for its Museum and collections, with a Transition Committee being formed in 1994 to explore all possibilities. In February 1994, the Society was notified that their lease for the Center School would be terminated in August. The NHS Board decided to temporarily store the collection until a permanent home could be found. The collection was then moved to the second floor of Northfield's fire station, rent-free, for up to 3 years.
In 1995, a Joint Planning Committee was established between the Brown Public Library and the Northfield Historical Society to help each other overcome their space problems. Throughout the next four years, the Paine House and the Brown Public Library underwent major renovations and construction. A new addition to the library was created that joined the two buildings together and created a much-needed community room with kitchen, as well as accessibility to the library through the installation of an elevator. The Paine House was refurbished and became the permanent home of the Society. The main floor has four rooms, the largest space designed for exhibits. There are also two parlors and a small research room. The second and third floors are used for offices and collection storage. (Details about this joint Historical Society-Library project can be found in back issues of The Dog River Crier, the Society's newsletter.)
In July of 1999, the grand opening of the Brown Public Library and the Paine House was celebrated!
In 2005, the Society began a major inventory project re-organizing and re-numbering our extensive collection of archival materials, objects and photographs, and we are currently entering all that data into Past Perfect Museum Software.
The Society has mounted several exhibits in the Paine House since the grand opening in 1999, and we look forward to continuing our work gathering and sharing the history of our village and town.