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The Little Shop Studio

 The Little Shop
The Little Shop, a rear view as it appeared during Robert Strong Woodward's time.
"The Little Shop" was the name Robert Strong Woodward called his small studio just 500 feet away from his Hiram Woodward Studio and home. On October 15, 1931, he purchased an old mill building and restored it for use as an occasional painting studio. The building fit perfectly with his style and love of rustic old New England, and the renovations he made only improved its charm. This beloved spot was also perfect for relaxation and an occasional outdoor picnic, one of his favorite recreations.

 Map of RSW Studios
Map showing the location of three of Robert Strong Woodward's studios

 The Little Shop
The pond and spillway that fed the brooklet under The Little Shop,
photo by F. Earl Williams.
It was a small, one-story building standing just beside Clark Brook in Buckland before that smaller stream enters the Clesson Brook. At one time in the distant past it had been a mill or shop of some sort but the first Buckland History book does not mention it. A small brooklet, an offshoot of Clark Brook, ran directly under the building through the cellar. Information from Mrs. Florence Haeberle in 1984 relates that this building was probably built about 1812 and was used by various owners to make small tools, knives, razors and cider. It was, in those early days, known as Boehmer's Mill and was powered by the falling water of the Clark Brook.

 Article from The History of Buckland, Massachusetts, Bicentennial Edition
Article from The History of Buckland, Massachusetts, Bicentennial Edition, 1979
The Boehmer Mill

The Boehmer Mill in the North District of Town is the only one of Buckland's many water-powered Mills to be situated on Clark Brook, which has its beginning in East Buckland and joins the Clessons just below the Mill site. The building which housed the original "works" still stands intact after a long and varied history.

The early years of the shop are shrouded in legend. It was supposedly built in the early 1800's. Small tools and instruments are said to have been manufactured there, using the water wheel for power. Records show that following the Civil war the property was owned by the Boehmer family, who lived in the cottage behind the "Lightning Splitter." Here Sid Boehmer made kitchen knives, jack knives, and straight razors, examples of which may be seen at the Buckland Historical Museum. In the early 1900's Frank Woodward did blacksmithing there. In the 1930's Robert Strong Woodward, Buckland artist, purchased the property and converted the street level of the building into a part-time studio and retreat. He died in 1957, leaving the property to his cousins, Robert and Ann Haeberle. At that time extensive indoor renovations were made, leaving the outside of the building in its original condition. It is now used as a vacation home and Antique Shope by the Haeberle family.

Article from The History of Buckland, Massachusetts,
Bicentennial Edition,
by Beulah Cross, 1979

 The Little Shop
The Little Shop, photo by F. Earl Williams.
 The Lightning Splitter in Buckland
The Lightning Splitter in Buckland
Further, according to The History of Buckland by Beulah Cross, Frederick Louis Boehmer, came to this country and was the first German to live in Greenfield. His stay there was of short duration. He moved to Buckland and lived in a house (The Little Shop) near the twin bridges where underneath his home in a basement, he had a workshop. Here he made very fine surgical instruments for a Dr. Morse of New York City. Later he bought and lived in the 'lightning splitter' and continued to make scissors, knives of all kinds and razors in the workshop across the road. A knife or razor made by F. L. Boehmer was always regarded as containing a very high grade of steel.

Due to its close proximity to the Hiram Woodward place, it is now difficult to determine whether a painting was made at the Hiram Woodward Studio or The Little Shop Studio. The only known painting made of the interior of The Little Shop was named The Book Corner.

 The Book Corner - the only known painting from inside The Little Sho
The Book Corner - the only known painting from inside The Little Shop
F. Earl Williams photograph of the inside of The Little Shop
Inside The Little Shop, photo by F. Earl Williams
Three other paintings were made just outside The Little Shop and include June Brook, a painting of Clark Brook, October Brilliance, a painting of the pond near The Little Shop, and Through Winter Woods, a winter painting of a woodland road near The Little Shop.
Clifton Richmond, an Easthampton factory owner, after visiting Robert Strong Woodward wrote the following description of RSW making over the old Boehmer mill into an attractive and comfortable studio and furnishing it with antique furniture:

"When Woodward unwillingly took the "Little Shop", and the acreage with it, for three hundred dollars, the unwillingness was wholly financial. Reconditioning was no easy task. To that end the artist scoured surrounding hills and, board by board, nail by nail, brought back a wealth of very wide, weather-beaten boards and hand wrought nails. Each deserted farm or old cellar hole yielded something. With these boards the interior of the building was relined; yet there is no evidence by a cut edge of newness, the boards having upon their edges the loving weatherworn grey of time. Courageous? Yes. A wealth of fine feeling, know-how and patience, fused together, have here reproduced the look of age that has a charm all its own.

The natural color of the woodwork, the pewter, the grey and black curtains and the soapstone stove, are relieved by the dull red of the window sashes, the doors, an old chest, a dish of rosy apples, pieces of antique glass on the window sills. Nor does the eye miss the harmony of the old grey-green chairs, table, and the old crock on the floor filled with laurel leaves. The antique furniture and decorations caught the eye of the Lady-who-chums-with-me, also the contents of the set-in wall cupboards, the ancient latches and "Holy Lord" hinges.

The many windows in this building all have small panes of glass. Not one of these is new, nor is there an old pane cut down. Toward completion of restoration, the artist was asked if a few lights of old glass could be reduced in size. He replied: 'No. We must be patient and eventually find them.' The artistic desire for accurate reproduction versus the business urge to have done with it."

At the death of RSW in 1957 the "Little Shop" was bequeathed to RSW's niece and nephew and their mother made it into an antique shop. In the following years it was sold and rebuilt into a small home, its outside appearance remaining essentially unchanged.

 The Little Shop in 2007
The Little Shop in 2007
There are several personal memories of The Little Shop from the late 1920s when Mark Purinton visited the building while Nelson Spence Woodward lived there. That story is related here. Years later in the early 1940s, while working as a yardboy for RSW, Mark Purinton was regularly assigned to visit the property, cut the grass, and keep the yard neat. He recalls the following: "The main floor of the building had a wood-burning soapstone stove, a four poster bed, (but to my knowledge no one ever slept in it,) a dining table and a few chairs. I remember nothing in the building being pertinent to an art studio. It is also from these days that I remember the cellar beneath the building. It had a dirt floor and, as mentioned above, an off shoot of Clark Brook ran through one wall of the cellar, through the cellar itself, and then out the opposite side, back down into Clark Brook. Directly over the exit of the brooklet, Fabian Stone had constructed a toilet. It had a continuous flush. This fascinated me as a young boy, just to feel the water splash my behind sitting on the old 'one-holer.' "

 The Little Shop in the winter of 2013
The Little Shop as it appears today in the winter of 2013
The Little Shop property was adjacent to the property owned by Hilda Burdick, just on the other side of Clark Brook. RSW and Hilda had a very contentious relationship and there were numerous disagreements betweeen them. Most upsetting to RSW's sense of decency and artistic beauty was that Hilda had an outhouse in front of her house right next to the street, instead of behind the house as was more appropriate for the time. Please read the full story here.

The Little Shop was kept up by RSW until his death when it was willed to his cousins, Robert and Ann Haeberle. Subsequently it became an antique shop run by their mother Florence Haeberle. Years later it was purchased by Mildred March who rebuilt it into a nice little home with new windows, modern plumbing and insulation. This place is intact today with its grey weathered boards and its little millstream. It is now a private home.