SANDWICH — When Randy Harelson talks about the Spring Hill National Historic District, his voice fills with excitement revolving around the neighborhood’s “old fashioned and friendly feeling.”
“I was introduced to the area maybe a decade ago when I found Green Briar Jam Kitchen and the Quaker Friends Meetinghouse,” said Harelson, a summer Sandwich resident. “That’s when I fell in love with Sandwich.”
His fascination with the district led Harelson to help create Spring Hill History Day, which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The event will span the district's two-mile loop and will include tour sites, and presentations given by local historians John Cullity and David Wheelock.
Meetinghouse restoration kicks off History Day
Among stops on the tour is the Meetinghouse, which recently underwent restoration. And it was the Meetinghouse, said Harelson, that was the catalyst for Spring HIll History Day.
While the first Meetinghouse was built in 1672, the town of Sandwich gifted $135,000 for restorations to the most recent building that was erected in 1810. Funds were used from the town Community Preservation Fund.
Because of the town’s generosity, Harelson and other event organizers wanted to open the Meetinghouse to the public so they could experience the building after the project’s completion.
“We wanted to invite the community to see the inside and outside of the Meetinghouse,” he said. “Then of course other organizations jumped on board immediately and said let’s do a whole Spring Hill history tour.”
Adjacent to the Meetinghouse, Cullity will present the history of early East Sandwich at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 1:30 p.m. in the Friends Community House.
Other sites to be seen
Attendees will also be able to tour the Wing Fort House, which was built in 1641, and historian and caretaker Wheelock will conduct tours of the house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Because the Wing family is holding a family gathering, attendees will also be able to meet descendants of Stephen Wing, who was a Quaker in Sandwich, born in 1621, according to a Wing family website.
The tour will also extend to the Thornton W. Burgess Society Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen, which was originally built in 1780 and run as a tea house by Ida Putnam.
"The big hit with the tea room was her jams and jellies. She (Putnam) realized she would do better with the odd jams and jellies, rather than trying to keep up with vagaries of running a tea room," Harelson said. "She perfected recipes and she did not ever stop working at that business until she died in 1951."
Upon Putnam's death, Martha Blake bought the jam kitchen and ran it until 1979, when she sold it to the Burgess Society. During Spring Hill History Day, Blake’s nephew Brad Blake and his family will share memories of Martha Blake. Strawberry short cake workshops will also be held during the event.
"The building has had an amazing continuity and has only shifted owners three times," Harelson said.
Shirley Cross house open for first time
The Shirley Cross house is also a stop on the Spring Hill History Day tour, said Harelson. Cross was a locally famous botanist, who designed a wildflower garden at the Thornton Burgess Society. The “living museum,” and one-third of an acre garden in front of the 1780 homestead, includes about 300 plants, according to the Thornton Burgess Society website. Her home, which is maintained by her family, recently underwent renovations and will be open to the public.
“Almost 50 years ago, she was teaching about native plants. She was ahead of her time,” Harelson said. “She passed away and her son and his wife now live in the family house and they will be showing it for the first time. It’s a fine antique home.”
Cross also donated a piece of her land now known as Shirley’s Woods to the Sandwich Conservation Trust. During the tour, the area will be open for strolling with caretaker Steve Touloumtzis.
From there, the tour will also bring attendees to sites they may have never seen before, said Harelson, such as the first Quaker Cemetery that's behind a private home.
"Some of the Quakers from the area haven't even seen it before," Harelson said. “That won’t be available any other time.”
Sandwich steeped in history
For Harelson, who spends most of the year in Louisiana, the district itself is steeped in history with early followers of the Quaker faith immigrating to East Sandwich in 1657, four years after the town’s inception. Which is why the district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
“This community of Quakers has managed to stay here and worship ever since,” he said. “And the earliest Friends meeting in America was right here. It’s the oldest continuous Quaker meeting in North America.”
For Cape residents, Harelson said, Spring Hill History Day will be an opportunity for visitors and locals to come to know Sandwich and its associated past.
"I'm a great lover of Spring Hill and Cape Cod because of the enormous amount of history that's taken place here. I often think of the people that traveled these sleepy roads 200 years ago," he said. "For people that love history and old Cape Cod, this is the tour for them."
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Spring Hill History Day to mark the significance of Sandwich