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The Barney House: Meet the man behind the famous landmark

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — There’s the famous house in Springfield’s Forest Park, and then there’s the man of the house.

And Everett Barney was quite a man.

His revolutionary invention, mass produced right here in Springfield, brought enjoyment to peoples’ lives in the late 1800’s, and his legacy still does to this day.

“He entered his skates in international contests, and he won them,” said Francis Gagnon, a local Springfield historian.   “Paris, Vienna, he was big stuff.”

“He’s known to be the man who put America on ice skates.”

Everett Barney was a man ahead of his time.  Born in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1835, he first made his money building locomotives and weaponry.

But it wasn’t until he teamed with his business partner to form the Barney and Berry Company that Everett Barney became rich and famous.

Barney and Berry clip-on ice skates were all the rage, here in Springfield, and all over the world.

“When Everett Barney came up with his invention and it became very popular, people started buying these skates by the thousands,” said Guy McLain, Director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History.

“He set up a factory in the South End of Springfield very close to the current railroad line that we have today.  And that factory was a booming factory for several decades. And it was one of the main providers of jobs for Springfield during that period.”

And Barney’s timing was impeccable.  You see in the late 1800’s the Victorian Era was flourishing.

People had more free time to enjoy themselves, and ice skating was widely popular.

Barney was a popular figure on the local ice, and even more so when the weather got warmer.

He would open his lavish Forest Park estate for the people to enjoy boat races, watching from the grass high above the Connecticut River.

“He also saw to it that the land got improved’,  said local historian Francis Gagnon.  “He had gardens. He encouraged concerts. He let people come to concerts.”

“There were races on the Connecticut River. People were allowed to sit and view races from his gardens and lawn.  So he was the kind of man that Springfield needed at that time.”

Everett Barney’s legacy continues to flourish every time anyone visits Forest Park.

Much of the land that makes up Forest Park was donated by Everett Barney, and of course the Barney Mansion is still used today for weddings and civic functions.

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