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A simple man, an extraordinary talent

A. Elmer Crowell

Courtesy of the Harwich Historical Society

The Crowell Barn consists of a garage area, a main room in the center, and the workshop. Harmon describes the workshop as “the chicken coop where he used to carve.” The society plans to use the larger room as a museum, and to host workshops and demonstrations in the art of bird carving.

Several bird carvers and fans of Crowell’s art have made pilgrimages to the barn. “Sometimes people will come with their birds, sit on the bench, and have their photos taken,” says Desiree Mobed, the society’s former director. Parker relates a story of a woman who recently visited the barn with the Crowell carving her husband had given her early in their marriage. “Her husband had passed away,” Parker says, “but she felt good to be able to take the bird to the shop where it was carved.”

In addition to assisting with the rebuilding project, Parker has leant memorabilia to re-create Crowell’s working environment. “I had collected certain antique tools similar to the ones that Elmer used, like an old Murphy knife,” he says. “We found an old band saw that we believe is the same manufacturer and model that Crowell used.” Crowell’s original carvings are too valuable to house in the barn at this time, but the unfinished decoy and miniature bird models on display have been crafted from Crowell plans by Cape Cod artist Steven Weaver.

Juell Buckwold, a docent at the Harwich Historical Society, was a neighbor of Crowell and best friends with his great-granddaughter, Peg, so when she opens up the barn each day, she takes a trip down memory lane. “Elmer was a jolly gentleman,” she recalls. “He was kind, always had time for us, told us stories about his life or about different animals. We would often filter over to the workshop, where we played with the shavings.”

Buckwold says she never took one of Crowell’s carvings, though he offered them to her more than once. “He was a people person,” she says. “You wanted to be near him, to watch him, to listen to him. It’s wonderful he’s back in Harwich; this is where he belongs.”

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