Furness family donates personal collection to Stafford Historical Society

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Thu., Sep. 19, 2013
Stafford Historical Society President David Bartlett kneels beside a wooden display stand for Stafford Springs Mineral Water Company. Built in 1885, the Stafford Historical Society building, located at 5 Spring St., was once the home of the Stafford Springs Mineral Water Company, and the water used to be bottled in the basement.
Stafford Historical Society President David Bartlett kneels beside a wooden display stand for Stafford Springs Mineral Water Company. Built in 1885, the Stafford Historical Society building, located at 5 Spring St., was once the home of the Stafford Springs Mineral Water Company, and the water used to be bottled in the basement.

An impressive collection of Stafford artifacts is now on display at the Stafford Historical Society Museum at 5 Spring St. The largest one-time donation to the society was acquired from the family of Arthur and Anna (Kowalyshyn) Furness and includes souvenir china, milk bottles, photographs, signage, advertising and many other items.

“The family called me and invited me to come over and look at the collection,” said SHS President David Bartlett. “I was not only interested, I was overwhelmed,” he said, adding that Arthur and Anna Furness must have collected anything Stafford-related for many, many years.

Both Arthur and Anna Furness have passed away, but they had two sons and several grandchildren, Bartlett said. “They felt now was a great time to donate the collection so everyone in town could enjoy it. We’re so very pleased that the Furness family remembered us. It was very generous on their part,” he said.

Several items in the collection include souvenir china with pictures of buildings from Stafford with the town name printed below. Bartlett said the pieces are around 100 years old, and that the pictures of the buildings were taken, then sent on to Germany, where they had the raw materials to make the china and transfer the pictures to the pieces. “These pieces were made before WWI, and once the war began, that ended all the trade with Germany,” he said. “It’s very difficult to find these items today, and if you do find them, [sellers] want an arm and a leg for them.”

Bartlett said there were once a great many dairies in Stafford, and it appears that the Furness collection of milk bottles included at least one bottle from every one of them. These include bottles from E.A. Jacobs, Rockland Farms, Belchers Milk, B.J. Bruzzi Company, and others.

A particularly interesting piece is a wood stand imprinted with the Stafford Springs Mineral Water Company. Bartlett said the stand probably came from a store. It has a drain in the bottom, which he assumes was used for ice in pre-refrigeration days. Interestingly, Bartlett said the building that houses the Stafford Historical Society was once the private offices of Julius Converse, a local businessman who owned a few local businesses. Bartlett said they used to bottle Stafford Springs Mineral Water in the basement, and the main level served as a display room for factory-made items. Bartlett said after Converse died, the building was used by the town for the Stafford Public Library for over 100 years, and was later given to the Stafford Historical Society when the new library was built.

The collection includes some unique pieces, which offer a walk down memory lane, such as a sign from the former DeCarli’s Service Station, which once stood across from Heritage Park. There is also a marker with the number “16,” which Bartlett said he believes was a number from outside one of the hotel rooms of the former Stafford Springs Motel. The motel, he said, was located diagonally across from the Stafford Historical Society building, but was torn down in 1959 after it was destroyed in a fire.

“This is quite a collection,” said Bartlett. “It took a core group of five or six of us coming down every Monday night to clean, sort and catalog the collection, as well as remove other displays from the display cases to make room for the Furness collection,” he said.

The Stafford Historical Society is open to the public the second Sunday of the month from 2 to 4 p.m. and first Monday from 7 to 8:30 p.m.


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