The past must always yield to the future and the Pilgrim Shop dealing in antiques is no exception. Perched over a brook on Route 9, one-half mile below West Cummington, the shop is situated on a seven mile section that is to be widened into a four-lane highway.
The only direction the shop can be moved is across the road and it still is undetermined whether the old building can withstand the strain of dislodgement.
Owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Dewey Steele, the Pilgrim Shop enjoys a reputation for housing fine antiques and the Steeles are known as authorities on the life of the 19th century. The building was purchased 30 years ago and the shop has been in operation 27 years. When the Steeles bought it, it was crumbling into ruin, but gradually they restored the old barn, building a large fieldstone fireplace and replacing the rotting foundations.
Mrs. Steel’s interest in antiques was awakened as a bride when she received several pieces of old furniture as gifts. Her husband, a cabinetmaker and farmer, refinished them and later when his health prevented them from farming, they decided to enter the antique business at their present location.
During the years, Mrs. Steele has haunted libraries in Western Massachusetts for reading material on old furnishings. Gradually the Pilgrim became a center for old costumes, antique postcards, stamps and advertising card papers.
“The costume business is quite brisk,” according to Mrs. Steele who had college girls coming to look for masquerade dress, automobile people looking for proper outfits for Glidden tours and theater people needing period costumes.
This was all in addition to the old china, crystal and furniture that typify the antiques shop.
But now almost all of this must go to make room for the four-lane highway. The shop will be re-established across the road on the land where the Steeles have their home. If the old building can be successfully moved, plans are to make the large major room into a museum with the antiques shop in what is now a garage.
The museum, a dream of many years for the Steeles, will house their collection of 19th century miniature rooms, depicting the life of those days. The scale of the rooms is one inch to the foot and the collection represents 35 years of searching for small furniture, dolls and appointments.
For the past 10 years, Mrs. Steele has been setting up the collection room by room, often stopping to stitch up tiny dresses, little coverlets and minute window curtains.