Restored Atwood Sleigh Will Deliver Holiday Cheer

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Holidays , Historic preservation

The restored Atwood Store delivery sleigh, on display at the Chatham Historical Society. COURTESY PHOTO

CHATHAM This year, good tidings will be coming to the children of Chatham courtesy of an actual one-horse open sleigh. And it’s a sleigh with a story.

On Saturday, Dec. 9 from 1 to 4 p.m., visitors to the Chatham Historical Society’s Atwood House Museum will be able to see the fully-restored sleigh, which was rescued from the basement of the former Eldredge Garage before it was razed. Visitors are encouraged to fill the sleigh with warm winter hats, gloves and scarves, to be donated to local children through the Chatham Angel Fund.

Before the landmark downtown building was demolished, Lester Eldredge showed the sleigh to Atwood House volunteer Don St. Pierre, who called in Kevin Wright of the historical society to have a good look. The wooden sleigh, reinforced with ironwork, had sideboards bearing "Atwood Store, Groceries" in fancy script lettering.

Levi Atwood opened the store in 1849 on what is now Stage Harbor Road, later moving it to what is now 513 Main St., the site of Bluefins Sushi and Sake Bar. Selling groceries and dry goods, the store remained in operation for more than 100 years. St. Pierre guesses that the sleigh was the best means of delivering goods in the wintertime until automobiles became prevalent in town. Seeing the sleigh, the preservationists knew they were on to something special.

Actually, the sleigh had been seen years earlier by some other history buffs, including Dan and Ronald Meservey, who had expressed an interest in restoring it but never got around to doing so. St. Pierre tracked them down by phone, and they agreed to take on the work and the associated cost. When the volunteers gingerly lifted the sleigh to put it on a trailer, it essentially fell apart, thanks to the old wood and corroded nails. They collected the pieces and stored them in a covered storage space in West Chatham until the restoration could begin.

With help from David Alten of Harwich, Ronald Meservey meticulously rebuilt the sleigh, repainting it and mounting it on a permanent platform. The Meservey brothers donated the sleigh to the Atwood House, in memory of William B. Eldredge and Roy B. Meservey.

The sleigh’s debut Saturday coincides with Chatham’s Christmas by the Sea event, and is only one of the holiday-themed displays at the Atwood House Museum. The museum will be offering a “Grub with the Grinch” breakfast from 9 to 11 a.m., and a special “Santa’s Workshop” where Richard Noyes will demonstrate the craft of creating wooden toys of yesteryear. For details, visit www.ChathamHistoricalSociety.org.