Liverpool The wind had whipped itself into a frenzy on the last Sunday in April as Joan Cregg and Dorianne Elitharp-Gutierrez tidied up the Willow Museum, preparing it for the upcoming summer season.
“Suddenly the wooden door was ripped off its hinges by the wind,” recalled Dorianne, the village historian. “It flew down the sidewalk and landed face down, smashing its window to pieces.”
Joan, the president of the Historical Association of Greater Liverpool which maintains the museum, stepped forward to pay for its repair, forking over a tidy sum that would be reimbursed by the association at its May 12 meeting.
Longtime Liverpool resident Ken Hurst, whose 19th century ancestors crafted willow baskets and furniture in the willow shop which is now the museum, called the door mishap “an act of God.”
Between 1915 and 1924 more than three dozen households in the village of Liverpool featured willow shops and storage barns involved in the ongoing willow-weaving industry. The whole family contributed to the painstaking work of creating clothes baskets, cradles, shopping baskets and even furniture.
Wives and children traditionally stripped the willows, wives made the bottoms of the baskets and husbands finished them off. Some of the more creative husbands graduated into “fancy work,” designing and weaving chairs, tables, baby strollers and even lampshades.
The cottage industry dates back to the efforts of John Fischer, a German immigrant who began weaving baskets here in 1852.
HAGL needs help
The Historical Association of Greater Liverpool lovingly preserves our willow-weaving roots at the Willow Museum outside the Gleason Mansion, 314 Second St. The museum opens for the summer season from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 2. Visitors there can touch the tools and view the entire process from harvesting to finished product every Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 26.