Walk in through the large, wooden double-doors and you will enter onto our bookshop's main floor. Above the door, a sign in cement still reads "Edwards Library." This was the site of the original Southampton town library built in 1904. When you step through the foyer, the first thing you see might be a surprise and cannot be missed: a restored folk-art ferris wheel and circus wagons. To your right will be shelves of non-fiction, and to your left will be shelves of fiction. Straight ahead is a display case featuring some of our collectibles and gifts. Our friendly staff is always available to guide you to your areas of interests.
Bruce Coombs, owner of Heritage Books and Heritage Surveys, acquired these antique pieces nearly twenty years ago in 1999. He was visiting the home of a West Springfield man, who had recently passed away, to peruse the books and ephemera that he had left. Bruce happened upon the ferris wheel and wagons in a backyard shed. Intrigued by the folk art feel and historical nature of the pieces, as well as the obvious care and time that the creator put into them, Bruce decided to purchase the antiques. They needed a good bit of work and so were stored in the basement of the bookstore for a number of years. Then Bruce enlisted the help of the Delnero family, who used to reside and build furniture just up the hill from us in Southampton, to do the restoration.
The ferris wheel and circus wagons are constructed from many thousands of wooden medical applicators. The ferris wheel alone is made up of 29,000 applicators. When Bruce found them, there were many broken pieces, which the Delneros fashioned replicas of and replaced. They also had to replace the ferris wheel motor and rewire it. The paint was chipped and faded throughout, so the Delneros went through the time-consuming process of matching up the colors and repainting. The final project was the construction of the custom oak display case. Getting all of the antique pieces and the display case in place was not an easy operation, especially on a wintry December night in 2008. The Delnero family drove to Southampton from their workshop in upstate New York and Jessica and Mark Reed were here to lend a much needed hand.
The ferris wheel is inlaid with the creator's name and location - Joseph Byron, Coventry Connecticut. Some research by Jeannie Sherman at the Connecticut State Library has uncovered a Joseph Byron from Monson, Massachusetts. Based on an article in the Oct. 2, 1953 edition of the Hartford Courant titled “Annual Fair Draws Crowds to Stafford”, Mr. Byron apparently exhibited his ferris wheel at the fair. It seems that he and his wife were residents of Monson at that time but may have moved from Coventry. We are not sure at this point whether or not he also made the circus wagons. We will post more information as we uncover it.