The D. P. Byam Sleigh, Sled and Wagon Repository
Prior to the industrial revolution, all iron items were handmade by a blacksmith. The blacksmith was one of the most important people in a rural community, and usually one of the wealthiest. This was because all the other tradesmen in the community depended upon the blacksmith to make their tools. Without the blacksmith, there was nobody to supply the carpenter's hammer and drawknife; nobody to supply cutting tools for the cooper or the harness maker; and of course nobody to make hinges and door latches for household use. In short, life depended upon the blacksmith. His shop was a favorite spot for small boys and old men alike. The intense fire, the rhythmic puffing of the bellows, and the clang of the hammer hold an intense fascination for folks even today.
The blacksmith shop at the Garrison House was built and operated in South Chelmsford by Marcus D. Byam (1805 - 1878). After the Civil War, the shop was operated by his son Daniel P. Byam, who manufactured and repaired the once familiar blue sleds used by almost everyone in the area for hauling cord wood and other loads in winter. The blacksmith shop then became known as a "Sleigh, Sled and Wagon Repository" according to the lettering on the front door. After his death, the building passed to his daughter and then to his granddaughter, Eleanor Parkhurst, who has given it to the Garrison House for use in its school and public education programs. It was moved to its present location in October, 1977.
The building is a rare example of king truss construction. The trusses under the roof can support the entire roof without need for interior walls or supports, allowing the interior to be one large room. This type of construction was only used for commercial buildings, and not many examples survive today.
Normally, we have live demonstrations during the school program and on Craft day. Unfortunately there were no demonstrations for over 2 years because in 1998 we had a fire in the blacksmith shop which came within a few minutes of completely destroying the structure. Fortunately, the Chelmsford Fire Department arrived in time to save most of the building and its contents.
The building has now been completely repaired, and is once again being used for live demonstrations as part of the school program. Everyone is urged to come to one of the events this summer to see the results of our restoration efforts.