Just outside downtown Cooperstown  is the second of its famous museums (Lake Rd./Rte. 80, 607/547-1400, www.farmersmuseum.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily June–Sept., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sun. Apr.–May and Oct.–Nov., adults $11, seniors $9.50, children 7–12 $5), composed of a dozen meticulously restored pre–Civil War buildings. Run by the New York State Historical Association, this is not just another living history museum, but rather, a sort of granddaddy of them all; founded in 1943, it was the first open-air museum in New York State and one of the first in the country.
The is spread along one looping street, lined with a general store, blacksmith’s shop, printing office, doctor’s office, and druggist’s shop. In the Main Barn near the entrance hang imaginative exhibits on early rural life; everywhere roam skillful guides in period dress, some demonstrating such arts as broom-making and open-hearth cooking. Sheep graze in the village common; fat cows wander a nearby hill.
One of the museum’s odder exhibits is the 2,900-pound Cardiff Giant. Supposedly unearthed in nearby Cardiff in 1869 by the hitherto unassuming William Newell, the sleeping stone man with the mysterious smile soon drew visitors from all over the country. One Harvard professor claimed the Giant dated back to Phoenician times; Oliver Wendell Holmes drilled a hole behind his left ear to see if the brain was petrified. Only after Newell had raked in some tens of thousands of dollars was the statue proven to be a hoax.