NEW WINDSOR — With a little prompting, the proprietor of Boxwood Antiques will offer a history lesson and embellish it with old pictures and newspapers.
Julia R. Cairns, 78, knows her town history well.
She lives and works in a 200-year-old former inn at the corner ofMain and High streets.
Visitors no longer seek lodging in its many rooms, but they can browse for hours among the memorabilia, including 30 years of yellowing hotel registers and antique kitchen utensils.
The shop's "history room" contains furniture once used at the inn. An early slaw cutter, a churn and a wooden vinegar pitcher sit on the same table servants used to prepare the inn's meals. Photos detailing events that took place in and around the town fill all the spaces on the walls.
Inside the shop, visitors can step back to 1788, when Isaac Atlee chose the site in hopes of attracting people traveling to Baltimore or points west. He chose wisely, and the town's first business prospered.
Eventually, the tavern became the 40-room Dielman Inn and remained in continuous operation until 1927. Other businesses soon followed Atlee's lead.
"The success of the tavern attracted other businesses, and the town was born," said Cairns.
The town has seen its share of entrepreneurs, she said. Business is alive and well, although today's inventories have changed from the time that 49 cents bought "red flannel drawers guaranteed to guard against rheumatism." Cairns has a copy of that advertisement for the underwear, which was stocked at Roop's Store.
Roop's, still a family operated store on Church Street, limits its merchandise today to groceries. Many other businesses also have remained on their original sites.
Brownie's Corner, where Cairns' uncle once sold banana splits for 20 cents, is still a popular eatery, K&B Corner.
Cairns' history display includes a photo of New Windsor Hardware, with iron hitching posts across its storefront for customers' horses. Owner Everett R. Ecker said the Church Street store dates back to the 19th century.
Down the road on High Street is the old train stop. When they brought milk for shipping, farmers often lingered there, catching up on the news.
The train flies by without stopping at the new woodworking shop now housed in the building. But Kevin Bennett found the old building ideal for starting his business two years ago. People "naturally" dropped in to welcome him and stayed to look at his products.
Historically, resourceful vendors often offered customers incentives to shop here. A turn-of-the-century customer who spent $15 at Dow and Feick, adry goods store, received a free train ticket back home.
The train might not stop anymore, but that doesn't deter enterprise. This weekend, businesses old and new will display their history and offeringsto the town of 842.
They are inviting shoppers to drive here for a preholiday shopping weekend, with special events and sales.
A horse-drawn Victorian carriage will shuttle customers among the shops. At Custom's Last Stand, they can see a bladesmith, blacksmith, chairwright and sculptor working their crafts.
Cairns is displaying antique toys, many of which came from the Ark Store, once located across Main Street from the inn. She is decorating her Christmas tree with old "local-theme" ornaments.
"The decorations were made from paper and often looked more like Valentines," she said.
"People often offer to buy the toys and decorations, but they are not for sale. They are part of our history."