Westcott House Center for Architecture and Design’s Summer Tour Series kicks off June 7. Contributed photo

These tours share secrets behind Springfield historic sites

There are places you may have passed hundreds of times in and around Springfield and never thought much about.

There are stories behind many of them and that’s where the Westcott House Center for Architecture and Design’s Summer Tour Series combines the factual with fun.

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The tour’s 14th season will begin Wednesday, June 7, with 15 tours including a new twist, new tours and new takes on past favorites highlighting the Greater Springfield region’s architecture, design and history.

Walking and bicycle tours return at 10 a.m. Saturdays starting June 10, along with happy hour tours at 6 p.m. Wednesdays. A new three-part special happy hour tour has also been added.

“We always like to try new ideas,” program director Kevin Rose said. “We’re always experimenting in finding amazing places we hadn’t been before.”

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The season will kick off with Urban Renewed — a cemetery and brewery tour, the first special happy hour tour on June 7.

The tour, which will also be offered July 29 and Aug. 23, will include visits to the old Columbia Street Burying Ground and Springfield Metallic Casket Co.

“Urban Renewed is our play on urban renewal. You have this area known for death and it’s now a place of renewed energy downtown,” Rose said.

The burying ground is the final resting place of some of the city’s earliest residents, including Revolutionary War soldiers and a man said to have participated in the Boston Tea Party.

And you may get a glimpse of one of the living residents of the cemetery, a rare albino squirrel.

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Urban Renewed will wind up with a tour of the former casket company, which now houses one of downtown’s success stories of the past year, Mother Stewart’s Brewery. Participants will finish there to sample some of the craft beers.

“A great thing about the series is there are a lot of tours we can refresh every single year,” Rose said.

Architects, curators, historians and local professionals knowledgeable about their subjects guide the tours.

Walking tours will include College Hill North on June 10; Garden Acres by Mail on June 24; Historic South Fountain on July 1; the Kensingtons on July 29; Belmont Meadows on Aug. 19; Progressive East High on Aug. 26; and Ferncliff Cemetery: Sacred and Symbolic on Sept. 2.

Rose points out the Ferncliff tour is a permanent part of the series that always offers new angles and information.

Happy hour tours will be Downtown Victorian on June 21, Downtown West on June 28 and Downtown Modern Art on July 12. Bicycle tours include Mid-Century Modern West on June 17 and Jack Kline’s Yellow Springs on July 8.

“I’m thankful the tours have become a staple in the community and to be seen as a community institution,” Rose said. “These tours are part of the city’s identity.”

Rose encourages those interested to register for the tours as soon as possible because most sell out. Costs vary according to the event.

Information on each tour and whether it is a walking, bicycle or happy hour tour is listed on the Westcott House website, www.westcotthouse.org.

For more information, call 937-327-9291.

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