Daytripper: Three Sisters Sanctuary merges art and nature

WESTFIELD – This is the summer of the staycation.

Many people had big plans this summer, and many of them were squashed by COVID-19. With quarantine orders in place in Massachusetts for anyone who returns here from states outside of New England, New York and New Jersey, many people have turned their vacations into staycations.

Three Sisters Sanctuary in Goshen combines art, gardens and tranquily with a big dose of whimsy. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

If you are looking to get out of Westfield but not venture too far, a daytrip is perfect. You can be any number of great places that are not far from home. And if you’re avoiding crowded beaches, western Massachusetts has some fun family alternatives to explore.

For those looking to drive less than an hour and want to stay outdoors, Three Sisters Sanctuary in Goshen is a quick and enjoyable ride. Take the back roads through Southampton into Leeds, Williamsburg and Goshen and you’ll see some lovely neighborhoods along the way.

From an ampitheater to rock labyrinths to a fire-breathing dragon, butterfly mosaics and a Barbie doll fairy house, Three Sisters Sanctuary is a unique combination of art and gardens. And, there is an antique stove museum to round out the experience.

Three Sisters Sanctuary is an 8-acre wonderland. The experience starts when you park next to the stove museum building, which is a work of art itself. An archway of old bicycles and bicycle parts, a giant tin woodsman, mermaids and more greet visitors. The entire building is adorned with found object art.

Three Sisters bike arch

Three Sisters Sanctuary

Inside the museum are numerous antique stoves, including cast iron wood-fired stoves, stoves made of porcelain and even stoves whose sole purpose is to keep irons hot.

Once you pass through the gate into the garden, there is something to see at every turn.

Marketing Director Dawn Dobson doesn’t just help owner Richard M. Richardson promote the Sanctuary, she plants flowers and tells its story to visitors as she works in the garden.

A fire-breathing dragon sculpture is one highlight of Three Sisters Sanctuary. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Dobson said Richardson has owned the land for four decades and has slowly built the Sanctuary over time. He originally sold his stoves there and began excavating and moving large rocks that were on the land.

When the state cleared the rocks while making way for Route 112 many years ago, they were used as fill on the property. After Richardson bought the land, he began moving the rocks, one by one, and there are now 300 standing rocks at the Sanctuary.

Richardson, an environmental artist, expresses himself through nature. The Three Sisters Sanctuary, named in honor of his three daughters, is inspired by his children and his experiences as a father. He said it is a spiritual place.

“The spirit of my brother Chuck who passed in 1993 and my eldest daughter Tina Marie who passed in 2003 are strongly felt here. In life and with their passing they’ve been very influential in my vision for the land and the sanctuary,” Richardson states on the Three Sister Sanctuary website.

“As the decades have passed, it has been my delight to witness the sanctuary mature and become something truly beautiful. It is my hope that when people come here, they find serenity, a feeling of inner peace and spirituality,” he states. “The sanctuary is meant to be shared with all who come, their family, friends and community. I welcome you to visit this unique space and derive your own special meaning. My greatest fulfillment as an artist comes from sharing Three Sisters Sanctuary with others and experiencing how it moves them.”

The crown jewel of the Sanctuary is the dragon sculpture rising from a rock wall adorned with colored glass. A tug of a chain by Richardson releases fire into the sky right from the dragon’s mouth.

In addition to Richardson’s work, exhibits by other artists are scattered throughout the Sanctuary.

This larger=than-life tin woodsman certainly has heart as he greets visitors at the Three Sisters Sanctuary in Goshen. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Three Sisters Sanctuary Fairy House

Three Sisters Sanctuary also has a guest residence for overnight visitors that includes a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom, all decorated as uniquely as the garden and stove museum.

Dobson said COVID-19 meant a temporary closure of the Sanctuary and cancellation of several events – the Sanctuary is available to rent for functions – but some small events will take place this season.

Three Sisters Sanctuary is located at 188 Cape St., Route 122, in Goshen. Open daily 8 a.m. to dusk, cost is $10 for adults. Cash only is accepted. Visit threesisterssanctuary.com for more information.

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