Colonial House Picture of the colony
Meet the Colonists Behind the Scenes Interactive History Media Gallery
Behind the Scenes
Introduction Interview with the Executive Producer Colonial Life, Then and Now

The Native American Story
A Historian Awakens 1628
Religion on the Colony
The Longest Day
Building the Colony
Candid Camera
The Training
Building the Colony
By Stuart Bolton
Photo of Staurt Bolton

T hroughout the early 17th century, European ships arrived to the coast of the Native-American homelands of New England. Some came to explore, some to fish, and some to trade with the local peoples. A few of these ships brought passengers intent on establishing communities along the New England shore. These colonists looked at what seemed to them a howling wilderness and imagined towns and villages like those they had left behind.

At Plimoth Plantation, our work has been to recreate one of these early colonial settlements. For the current generation of museum staff, this work has consisted of refining an existing reconstruction using the latest research and historical discoveries. None of us remember our site without buildings on it. The COLONIAL HOUSE series has given us an opportunity to experience the building process from the perspective of the early colonists, starting with an isolated piece of coastline and constructing a village using the existing resources.

Plimoth Plantation served as a major historical consultant to the COLONIAL HOUSE production in many of our areas of expertise. As a member of the museum's historical carpentry program, my particular responsibility was to design and oversee the creation of the buildings for the Colony. This work began, as it had done in actual colonizing efforts, with negotiations over scope and resources. Museum Programs Director Liz Lodge and I conferred with the show's producers on how many people and how many buildings could be accommodated within the program's resources, just as early colonists negotiated with their financial backers.

Once we had settled on the scale of the settlement, initially four dwellings and two sheds, I needed to place it on the site chosen by the production crew on the far eastern coast of Maine. I drew from Plimoth Plantation's research on the layout of many early settlements. One in particular seemed appropriate: the French settlement of St. Croix, established in 1604. Not only did the cross street layout create the compact village we wanted, but the colony had been located just up the Maine coast from our intended site. With the number and disposition of the buildings resolved, we began the work of construction.

One of the hallmarks of Plimoth Plantation's colonial building program is a practical understanding of the past. Our artisans begin with careful research into documents, surviving buildings, and archeological remains. Using these resources and working with other experts, including our friend and fellow COLONIAL HOUSE consultant, historian Tad Baker, we create theories and models of how the building might have been built. Then, we put these ideas to the test. Working with similar tools and resources, and often in similar clothing, we build as we think they might have done. From this experience we gain insights that we can bring back to our sources, which in turn can help us generate new understandings and new theories. COLONIAL HOUSE gave us an especially rewarding opportunity to put some of our latest theories to work.

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