Westfield’s General Store and Gift Shop are open Sundays 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. during July and August
Picture taking a leisurely stroll along a country path listening to the birds chirping, feel the slight breeze coming through the trees and see the occasional bunny hopping across the path. Now picture stopping at a store from another era where you can purchase an iced-cold soda or an ice cream treat. Maybe you have a sweet tooth that needs to be satisfied. Come out to Westfield and you can experience it on Sundays during July and August.
General Store Soda Fountain
While at the store be sure to check out a very interesting artifact that is original to the store. The soda fountain in the General Store was bought new, in about 1903, for the store when it was in Springhill. That may seem early for such a thing to some people, but soda fountains in Drug Stores first appeared in the 1830’s and were common in the United States by the 1880s. It was in the 1870’s that the ice cream soda appeared.
The installation of the fountain into our store in the 1990’s is a story of its own, but part of it was the heavy metal pressure bottle of carbon dioxide that puts the bubbles in soda water. Ever wonder where you could buy the carbon dioxide needed to make the fizzy drink in 1903? Who figured this all out? Well, the chemist who discovered and isolated CO2, was a fellow named Joseph Priestly, a
contemporary of Isaac Newton; he gets the credit for oxygen too. But, the man who made artificial carbonated water the huge thing that it becomes was Johann Jacob Schweppe. His last name should sound familiar.
Schweppe built his first carbon dioxide generating process in 1783. In it, he mixed acid with the dust from crushed marble in a digestion vat. The ensuing reaction creates gaseous CO2 which goes up a tube into a vat of very pure water. Under pressure the CO2 dissolves into the water and you can tap it off into glass bottles. This is, in 1783, very cutting-edge industrial stuff. After early success in Switzerland, Schweppe moves his business to London England, a massive market for tonic water. Before the Aspirin was invented in 1898, common digestive problems such as dyspepsia or indigestion were best alleviated with a glass or two of natural effervescent spring water, rich as it is with natural minerals.
The industrialized process for making carbon dioxide had been around for a hundred and twenty years by the time the Spring Hill General Store installed its soda fountain. Who exactly they bought their gas bottles from will remain a mystery but three of the biggest CO2 bottlers of that time are still with us: Messer Gas (1901), Air Liquide (1903) and Praxair (1907).
Westfield is open as a Conservation Area 7 days a week for hikes and walks. Our historical buildings remain closed with the exception of the General Store and Gift Shop which are open on Sunday afternoons from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Admission is $15.50 per car load to come in.