Victorian interiors

A Victorian Home in the U.S.

Victorian interiors
Victorian interiors are perfect for the collector

I received this very nice email from a reader in the United States. I really thought I should share it. Here it is:

Dear Johanne, I was “surfing the web” last night looking for info on cast iron stoves and kitchens of the 20th century for my job. I work at a turn of the 20th C mansion here in Pennsylvania, which is run by Montgomery County. We have embarked upon an ambitious project to develop hands-on educational programs for schools, camps, scouts, etc. as well as weekend public programs focusing on several key areas that relate to our time period and the specific themes that we interpret here at the site.They are:

  • transportation (horse & buggy, carriages, steam trains),
  • communication (use of post office & telegraph),
  • community (using a real general store),
  • country kitchen & roles of women (doing cooking demos on a cast iron range & using a Hoosier),
  • a children’s heirloom garden (using only heirloom varieties & incorporating sensory and visual activities and tying it into the kitchen),
  • laundry & technology (taking kids and adults through the technological changes of the 20th C using the theme of doing laundry).

I am developing lesson plans for upper and lower elementary school students for each station as well as a folder of background research on each of these topics. Your website came up as I explored your article on heritage homes & the kitchen. Good stuff. It’s especially nice when I can find info that compares time periods, talks about technological differences, and relates it to the everyday person. I find that visitors like that combination as it is relatable, it makes the talk less lecture-like, and more conversational, and people are interested in food, cooking, gardening, antiques so this is a no-brainer for me.

I’ve had so much fun surfing for info recently and thought your website would be a good one for reference. At some point, we’d be willing to submit an article or two as we have staff here who are experts in colonial revival and Victorian décor, we do unique, very accurate Victorian Christmas décor each year (different decorations each year too!), and we have such a well-documented history of the family who lived here and that gives us the people info that make dry informational talks so much more interesting.

The home was owned by the 25th Governor of Pennsylvania, Samuel Pennypacker. He was an avid 18th C collector of PA antiques, family memorabilia, had a working dairy farm, had servants, had enough money to have a centrally heated home (coal furnace), hot and cold running water (using a windmill for water supply & water pressure), indoor bathrooms (early septic system), indoor laundry rooms (faucets, drains in sinks, early washing machine, laundry stove, etc and we know how much he paid the laundress & other servants too).

There are over 50,000 objects in the home with 30% being paper (photographs, personal letters, bills for everything, receipts, deeds, official papers from his 4-yr term, etc) and 95% are original to the house and family. When we can piece together general information about how the kitchen worked (for example) along with receipts for food from the local general store, family recipes, etc. it is just magic for our visitors. They get a very personal impression of the family and time period and that is what we are hoping for too. Sure is a fascinating place to work and having all of the stations I’ve mentioned above be hands on is just the best. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing that lightbulb go off in their minds when they “get” the point I’m making or they put the pieces together. Cool stuff.

Look forward to more newsletters.

Regards, Linda

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