Connecticut Antique Machinery Association More Than a Club

The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, or CAMA, is committed to building a permanent display

| June 2011

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the old saying goes, then it must be a duck. In the case of the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, it looks like an old iron club and for sure it sounds like one – but it’s actually much more than a club. 

Housed on compact, historic grounds just north of Kent, Connecticut Antique Machinery Association, or CAMA, operates as a full-fledged museum. Buoyed by a remarkably committed membership, the museum’s buildings and displays are open to the public five days a week from May through October. Volunteers man the displays, greeting visitors and answering questions.

“Ten years ago we made a commitment to be a museum, not a club,” says Pat Moran, a 25-year CAMA member from Seymour, Conn. That decision positioned CAMA neatly with two other historic attractions adjacent to the association’s grounds: The Sloane-Stanley Museum, housing an extensive collection of early hand tools, and the Kent Iron Furnace, where pig iron was produced for almost 70 years, both operated by the state of Connecticut.

CAMA is also home to Cream Hill School, one of the country’s first agricultural schools. Dating to the 1840s, the school’s original structure is open to visitors. Displays there showcase advanced farming techniques of the era, as well as artifacts of daily living in the 1800s.

Nestled in among trees on eight acres bordering the Housatonic River are nine carefully considered buildings and structures housing varied displays. A tractor barn, oil field pump house, a very fine mining museum (Connecticut is the birthplace of America’s mining industry), blacksmith shop, stationary steam engine hall and three buildings full of single-cylinder engines offer depth and more than a little charm.

“They took their time and spent the money to do more than just build pole barns,” Pat says. “It’s classy. There’s even a restoration building that’s heated in the winter. Some members keep their tools there to work on CAMA-financed restoration projects.” Sweat equity has made the museum what it is today. “In the 1980s they were putting up almost a building a year,” he adds.