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Friday, May 18, 2012

How The Other (Middle Class) Half Lived

I've been off the grid.
Sort of.

I've been mostly not near a computer for the past few weeks;
my hardware is still here, but nobody's home.

Except the servants.

Okay, not the servants.
Because the closest we come to having a servant is this:
And mostly we do his bidding.

The picture with the (faux, as in mannequin) servant was not taken in our house.
It was taken in this house, which is like our house, and yet not.
Their front hall stairs.
 This is our house:
Our front hall stairs.

What do our house and this other house have in common?

They were both built in 1832.
They have both been known to spook some people with what might be ghosties.
(Am I being vague enough?)
They were both built as prosperous middle-class family homes.

But while our house was built in the country as a farmhouse:

The other house was a city home for a successful merchant:

And, the other house is a museum.

So that's another difference -- we don't charge you $10 to visit us.
Except on holidays . . . .

But the Merchant's House Museum at 29 East 4th Street in Manhattan is well worth
checking out if you live in the New York area or are visiting from afar, or anear.

When our daughter Alida visited awhile back, she brought her camera.

I was interested to see if this very different house would echo our much more humble dwelling.
Well, it does and it doesn't.

There is a pie safe in the museum kitchen, which is the same shape and construction as ours.

Although ours has wire screening instead of punched tin.

 What's great about the Merchant House is that many of the items in it actually belonged to the Tredwell family,
who lived in it from shortly after it was built, until 1933.  Almost one hundred years in one family.
In 1936 it became a museum, decorated as the family would have done in the early years.
 I'm not sure I'd want to work in this kitchen, mostly because that stove would scare me to death,
but the kitchen is beautiful in its simplicity.  I am pretty certain that is a soapstone sink in the corner.
We don't have a soapstone sink here at That Old House -- we have practical modern stainless.
But our countertops are the less practical but beautiful soapstone, a time-honored kitchen material.
The stove is amazing, even if scary.  We don't have a wood or coal stove,
but we do have a very old copper kettle, rather like the one on the right.
Old picture; it is not Christmas time even in New Jersey right now!
The Merchant's House Museum has some lovely family bedrooms:  

Love the Empire furniture in this room!

There are fancy-schmancy pillars -- the house is Greek Revival style inside,
but more of a Federal style outside.

The entrance is graceful, with fluted Ionic columns
that flank the door, echoing the interior architecture.

Our porch columns, which are Doric style Tuscan columns, look pretty plain Jane by comparison.
As suits a farmhouse!

In the dining room, part of the double parlor, it looks like preparations are underway for a party.

The dining area fireplace has a stove inset,
what all the cool kids were using to heat their homes in the 1830s.

It's hard to see, but there's an insert in the parlor fireplace as well.

We think because of the shallow firebox in our
parlor fireplace that it, too, had a modern, cool-kid stove to heat that room.

Our mantel is painted wood; the Merchant's House has marble mantels.

And also snazzy -- Poppies!
And ours have started opening and blooming, bless their little hearts.

Poppies have such a short season that I stare at them a lot.
Amazing, gorgeous, explosive silky color.

Okay, I'm done.
I got a kick out of comparing two houses, born the same year, some things in common,
but really quite different -- City Mouse and Country Mouse.

Grab your Friday and enjoy! -- Cass

Feathered Nest Friday makes its home at French Country Cottage.  Click here!
The Charm of Home features Home Sweet Home on Fridays.  Click here!
It's Vintage Inspiration Friday at Common Ground.  Click here!
At My Romantic Home, it's Show And Tell Friday Click here!


  1. You're lucky in that you could take pics inside -- most of the houses that we seem to tour pics INSIDE are not allowed!!! Bummer! How else can you study detail -- well, I guess you can buy their $10 "souvenir book"! (Which is why we think that no pics are allowed!)

    It is interesting the similarities. Love both the city house and the country house or are those mice? (city mouse/country mouse?)

  2. Oh my, your house and the museum are both fabulous. I totally love both. Hugs, Marty

  3. Very interesting to compare both! Great post!

  4. You know I love your country "mouse" and I KNOW some of the ghosties that protect your place - - - though you'd best feed them or they may stop protecting and start all out haunting.

    What I most would like to hear/see more of is that series of BELLS hanging above the pie safe in the city "mouse." I presume those were the bells used to summon the servants to various rooms.

    I could use a set of those.

    Alas and alack, no servants would come to my bidding, by how cool 'twould be to have a set hanging above a doorway here!

  5. One of my favorite stories mouse, country mouse. I liked your story too. Too bad that servant does come alive and help you in your kitchen. Have a nice weekend!

  6. That stove would scare me, too.
    Love the house in the city and oh...what a staircase.
    Your house is stunning.
    Thanks for sharing.
    ps, like the head of the house laying on the floor there, too!!

  7. I'm so glad you liked the pictures, and were able to use them in your blog!
    - Alida

  8. Hi Cass-thanks for the tour and the tale of two houses. I really enjoyed the comparisons!

  9. Hi Cass--great tour!! I loved seeing the Merchant House, as well as That Old House! What fun!! Our house had fireboxes in the fireplaces too, even though our house wasn't built until 1886, but they were still using coal to heat most homes at that time, so many of them had fireboxes; and in the rooms that did not have a fireplace they had coal stoves, kind of like Franklin stoves. I wish they were still here, but alas, they are long gone! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Wow, you did a lot of work for this post. I lovo old houses, so much character! And the stove -ad dream! Actually am here to give you heads up on the soaker. My daughter gave me the link again:
    Watch out: no seams, so you need a circular needle, start in the middle with the crotch, but it shows you a pic - so, good luck with it:)

  11. I enjoyed the way you compared the two houses with photos. Both beautiful, but I prefer your farmhouse any day!

  12. I am your newest follower. Thankyou so much for the great homes tour, loved it! That full tester bed is to die for isn't it?! I would love for you to visit me at my blog. My home is not historic but kind of looks like a Victorian farmhouse. Have a great day!

  13. I'd love a chance to cook on that stove. Maybe not every day though LOL!

  14. Thanks for taking us on a tour of both houses. I live in a manufactured home and would LOVE an old house (like yours)to live in for the rest of my life here on earth! It's been a dream of mine since I was young! Maybe someday! And congrats to your daughter, what a great career she has chosen!

  15. Oh I really enjoyed that post! I love touring Old homes. I LOVE your house! It was really neat to see the comparison! Thanks!

  16. HI Cass

    What a fun post - loved seeing snippets of both. The Old Parsonage was built in 1916, so she's a little younger than yours. We've got poppies blooming here to.

    Enjoy the rest of your week!

  17. I love going through old homes trying to imagine what life was like during that time period. I'm amazed. Love that old kitchen!


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