Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum

I never really associated New England with growing tobacco. However, driving through the Connecticut River Valley in Massachusetts, I’d seen some really interesting barns with vents on the side. Often there would be two or three of them in a field. They had such an interesting look to them. I discovered they were tobacco sheds. It turns out that the Connecticut River Valley grows the ideal types of tobacco for the binder and outer wrapper for cigars. After the leaves are harvested, they have to be slowly dried. Hence, the barns with vents in them. The leaves are hung in these barns to dry. Earlier this summer, I took some exterior photos of tobacco sheds but I really wanted to see the inside of one and make some images there.

With a bit of online research, I discovered the Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum in Windsor Locks, CT. It is in two buildings. One is an archive building that holds records and has a small museum on the history and process of growing tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley. The other building is a tobacco shed. Inside are tractors, displays of farm equipment and drying tobacco leaves. Tobacco was a huge part of the local community and everyone was involved. One display described sending children out in the field to pick weeds and thin plants with their small hands. Cultivating shade-grown tobacco is quite a process because coverings of cheesecloth need to be hung above the plants so that they are shaded. The harvesting process was also done by hand with the leaves placed on sticks to be hung in the sheds.

The museum is located in Northwest Park, which is a former tobacco farm. The park itself is beautiful with nice trails and other buildings used for more displays. There is a petting barn filled with children’s favorite farm animals. Check the museum’s website if you plan to visit. The shed is open seasonally on Saturdays. You can also call to arrange tours. It’s an interesting place to visit. We were glad we detoured and stopped. Children can enjoy the tails and animal barn. For you photographers out there who want a new location for doing portraits or a photoshoot, the park is a beautiful setting.

11 thoughts on “Connecticut Valley Tobacco Museum

  1. Liz Gauffreau

    What a surprise to see this post! When I was in high school, I had a summer job one year working in the tobacco fields on a farm outside Springfield, Mass. For several weeks, I worked in the fields tying the young plants to wires overhead, and then I worked in the shed sewing the leaves to be hung to dry. (This involved jamming two leaf stems at a time into a moving machine and keeping your fingers out of it.)

    1. milfordstreet Post author

      Oh, how interesting. You and your family might enjoy this museum and they may enjoy meeting you. They had a volunteer who actually worked this farm back in the day. It doesn’t sound like easy work. Cheers!

  2. 3C Style

    What an original post Chris. I’ve learned some interesting information here. Looks like this is an area filled with gorgeous settings for photo shoot. Thanks for sharing. Going up north to a wedding this weekend. I probably won’t have any Internet but I will bring my camera… Urban explorer on the loose. Cheers!

    1. milfordstreet Post author

      I appreciate that, Sarah. I too always associated tobacco with the Caolinas and Virginia. A friend in Austria said they also have tobacco barns. Go figure! Cheers!


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