A quick update on progress: physical construction of the interior is almost complete, and the videography installation will begin this month. We anticipate an opening this summer. Meanwhile, we are preparing to get the word out.
Visitors to the Samuel Slater Restaurant at Indian Ranch will see a new display window in the lobby. The Slater office exhibit from the museum has been replicated at the restaurant entrance to create awareness of its cousin, the Samuel Slater Experience. Once the museum is open, restaurant patrons will be able to purchase museum tickets at the kiosk next to the greeter’s desk.
Photo on the left in progress gives patrons at Samuel Slater Restaurant a glimpse of what they will see at the Samuel Slater Experience (right)
Slater Sheep Painting Project
An early newsflash here for museum followers. We are preparing a highly visible public art project, a series of lifesized Merino sheep, each individually painted with a colorful image, to be displayed in public and private places, such as yards, parking lots, shop windows. We will be sending out a Call to Artists and a Call to Sponsors in the next few weeks. Pictured here is a prefab mold for what the sheep will look like. If you would like more information about this project, send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who’s Who Behind the Scenes
Many Webster residents have participated in bringing the Samuel Story to life at the museum all during its five-year evolution. Perhaps none has been as instrumental as Carla Manzi, the town’s acknowledged collector and archivist of all things Webster.
For a little about Carla’s background, here are excerpts from an award she received 10 years ago.
“The Manzi family had a presence in downtown Webster for generations. Manzi’s Fruit Store on the corner of School and Main was founded in 1912. Carla remembers how she and her brother Tony would listen to the banter with loyal customers on Friday nights when downtown Webster was open late and busy with shoppers. Her dad Jim was a long-time collector with an extensive album of artifacts, documents, photographs, and postcards of the early years of the town, gathered over a lifetime.
Sharing in this interest in local history, Carla has taken the collection of Webster memorabilia to the Internet: www.OldeWebster.com was born in 2001 and has grown into the online source for Webster history and nostalgia. The site is a labor of love that has attracted positive feedback from young and old alike and is used as a reference tool for the school children of the town to learn and appreciate its history. There are links to the history of the town, including Samuel Slater’s contributions, more than 250 photos in the archives section, a message board where folks can post questions and answers of a historical nature, a chronology of events of the town, and a wealth of other nostalgic pages. Photos and information come from local contributors and the phenomenal archives of the Webster Times.
‘I think of myself as more of a collector and editor of material rather than a historian,’ she said. Carla’s research and editing experience derive from early years employed at Websters public library and as a young reporter for the Webster Times with editors Ed Patenaude and later Paul Jarvey showing her the ropes in the ‘70s and ‘80s. She earned her associates degree in Communications and Media from Becker Junior College.
After the birth of her two daughters, Jill and Maria, in the ‘80s, she earned the real estate sales license that would steer the next twenty years for her, the girls and her husband, Jim Mason. Under tutelage of the late Herman Becker and the Becker family’s mantra to ‘give back,’ Carla found her ‘home away from home’ at the Sterling Realty office on Thompson Road.
In 2004, former educator and athletic director at Bartlett High School, John Mrazik, approached Carla with an idea. A tenacious researcher, expert in the local history of the railway, John knew that combining his knowledge and the resources that Carla had would be a perfect match for producing a book on the town. Making the proposal to Arcadia Publishing in New Hampshire proved successful and they were off and running. The Images of America “Webster” pictorial history book struck a chord with residents and former residents who remember what a special place the town was in days gone by.
Another offshoot of the website and the book is Carla’s five-year-old business Webster Lake Gifts, which she runs out of the Sterling Realty office building location. Packed with all things Lake Carla Manzi Chargoggagogg, the store has become, not just a retail spot, but a place where folks from all over the world come in to look for souvenirs and find themselves reminiscing about their time in town and/or on the Lake and looking for historical information on the town and its claim to fame. Her guest book has visitors from Japan, Poland, Russia, as well as from just about every state in the country.”
How and when did you become involved with the Samuel Slater Experience?
As I recall, Chris Robert visited my shop (Webster Lake Gifts) and we were discussing the Indian Princess paddle wheeler. There was much debate at the time as to whether or not the boat would be good for the Lake. I had seen the Princess in person while visiting Florida and expressed to him that I was optimistic about its home port being at our lake.
He then asked me what I thought about his idea of getting the old Armory building from the town to create a museum about Samuel Slater. I offered the use of the Webster Times editions for research and any other pictures and Webster historical items that I had in my collection.
What has been your "behind the scenes" role in the development of the museum?
The Webster Times archives came to me through a friend, Sandy Lapensee, who worked as an advertising manager at the paper. She said those in charge of the large volumes in Southbridge where they were stored were planning to dispose of them.
Knowing of the work I had done with creating the oldewebster website, she got permission from them to send the whole collection of the bound editions of the newspaper over to me here at my office on Thompson Road. They have been invaluable in our research.
My contribution to the development of the Samuel Slater Experience is research using my collection of Webster historical information and sharing contact info of people who might be able to help with their knowledge of the town and its past.
As a Webster resident and historian, how would you describe the vision for the SSE?
My vision of the SSE is primarily as a learning experience for children. Finding out how the folks struggled, persevered, and earned success, along with appreciating the hard work and tough times that the founders encountered, is so important for students to see and even hear, feel, smell, as they will be able to at the museum. What do you think will make the SSE unique?
Chris Robert’s vision of an interactive, dynamic, “Disney-like” experience will be a unique destination for all ages. The depiction of downtown Webster along with the exhibits will draw in visitors who will come away with a perspective that has never been offered before.
Do you see the SSE as primarily of interest to Webster people or to a larger audience?
Anyone who is interested in history, no matter where they are from, will appreciate the SSE. I think that the New England audience would be the target market. It will be well worth the trip!
“At its best, historical preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” William Murtaugh, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Preservation.
From the education desk of Tim Prouty
Industrial Revolution for Kids
View the video at https://youtu.be/nl-6WPQ4Sg.
From Clarendon Learning:
Industrial Revolution for Kids is a simple yet comprehensive overview to help your kids/students better understand and appreciate everything that went into the American Industrial Revolution. Together we will learn about how people during this time worked hard to provide everything that they had, from working the fields to sewing their own clothes.
During this period, home and many other goods were transferred into factories to help build things faster and more efficiently. The industrial revolution helped shape the world as we know it today. Use this video side by side with our Industrial Revolution Lesson plan found on our website, Industrial Revolution Lesson Plan. Lesson plans are available for free; however, they give you the opportunity to leave a donation when leaving the site.
In the News
Followers of the Samuel Slater Experience will recall the memorable trip that the trolley took from California to Webster last fall. John Brock, editor of the Poway-Midway Train Fan Times, highlighted the story in the February issue of their newsletter. You can read it here.
Published February 2021
Trolley finds new life as part of the Samuel Slater Experience
Imagine yourself as a citizen of Worcester, MA, on a hot summer day in 1910. Back then, many vacationers would take the train to nearby Webster, check in to the Hotel Maanexit, then take the local trolley to Lake Chaubunagungamaugg for a cool, relaxing day of boating or fishing.
Today’s children of all ages can soon experience that trolley ride as part of the Samuel Slater Experience, an immersive, 4-D exhibit relating the life and impact of Slater, considered the father of the American Industrial Revolution. What we knew as “Old Number 57” has found a new life and new purpose, thanks to the hard work of the Slater museum team.
“We’ve repainted it to match the color and numbering of Number 21, on the Beacon Park line of the Worcester & Webster Street Railway,” noted Chris Robert, founder and president of the nonprofit Webster Museums, Inc. “We’ll soon replicate the feels and sounds of riding on Main Street down to the lake. We’ll shake and bounce the trolley as the wall-size video projection moves along the track, so that ‘riders’ get a real feel of what it was like to live in Webster in those days, when it was a boom town.”
Now listed by its full name Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, “It’s been popularly translated to mean ‘your fish on our side, I fish on my side, and nobody fishes in the middle,” continued Robert.
“This full name is the longest word in the English language. It’s part of the colorful and fascinating history of this area. We want Samuel Slater to be remembered for the important role he played in American history. And, we wanted an exhibit that was exciting and educational, so kids would remember what they saw, heard, felt, and smelled.”
“Other sections of the Experience immerse you in Slater’s 60-day ship voyage from Britain to America, complete with a hologram of him questioning his decision to emigrate, followed by him vomiting into a bucket! You’ll smell the salt air and hear the sounds of the ocean.”
“The next section,” Robert elaborated, “shows Slater coming ashore in New York Harbor, complete with real bales of cotton and hay, and video images of rats scurrying around.”
The photo gallery below shows the Trolley finishing its 3,000 mile cross-country journey, offloading by crane from the truck, positioning on the exhibit’s rails, and the repainting to become Number 21. To learn more about the Samuel Slater Experience, we also have posted links for a local newspaper article, a YouTube video, and one to the Experience website itself with a wonderful video here, too.
For any members who travel to Massachusetts, and visit this wonderful exhibit, please send your story and photos to Train Fan Times!