The Center Village and Common at Old Sturbridge Village reveals the genteel tastes that were emerging in the early 19th century. The area is neat and trim by the standards of the time, with shade trees and ornamental gardens at some of the houses. A meetinghouse dominates the area, joined by houses, workshops, and businesses. Most homes are on small lots with outbuildings, gardens, and a few livestock.
In the 1830s, New England towns were self-governing communities that comprised approximately 30 square miles of countryside. These towns included a number of schoolhouses, a sprinkling of mills, and a center village built up around an open tract of public land called a “common.” The common, or green, was used for grazing livestock and for training the local militia.
Farm families came to the center village to trade, visit, and worship. Merchants, tavern keepers, professional men, and craftsmen made their living in the center village by providing goods and services for outlying neighborhoods (and in some cases, distant markets). Many prosperous and influential families lived in the center village. They shared a growing concern about the appearance of their homes, grounds, and neighborhood.