Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Peek at the Past

Last fall when I was here in Michigan, I photographed the outside of this interesting house in a nearby town.

So many houses around here have such beautiful architectural details, built during the 19th century when there were many craftsman still carving wood and stone.

Katie had heard that there was going to be an open house at this historic building, the Grosvner House, so we went to see the inside and found many more examples of 19th century craftsmanship and heard some fascinating stories about its history.

I've visited lots of historic buildings but I have never seen a house with some of the special details that this one had, including servants quarters on the top floor of the house with a staircase down to the main kitchen and to the basement summer kitchen.
This house had belonged to a wealthy man who had built his fortune through business in the small growing town eventually becoming a state senator and having a hand in building the capitol in Lansing. Though the accoutrements of wealth were evident in every room, we thought the rooms were quite small for a mansion. No doubt at the time the house was built, 1870, they were considered very large.

Our tour guide bent the museum rules to take us to the basement to see some of the collection of antiques stored there...

...such as this contraption. The latest in laundry facilities- a clothes washer with two cycles- wash and rinse!

The house had a premium central heating system to all the rooms except the servant's rooms. These wood burning furnaces were still present in the basement, each large enough for a five foot log.

The hardware in the house was all handmade with unique details.

The kitchen had a Dumb Waiter that carried food and dishes to the three floors of the house.

Two large china closets held the dinnerware in the dining room.

This was something I had never seen before- the mirror is positioned so that ladies could stand before it and make sure their ankles or petticoats were not showing under their skirts.

I thought my friend David, himself a fine wood craftsman of our age, would appreciate seeing this drawer's amazing dovetail detail on this piece of 19th century furniture.

Many houses today are similar in size to this mansion of the 19th century but few have the handcrafted details that this one has including five carved colored marble fireplaces in the bedrooms.

When visiting places that showcase how people of previous generations lived, I am always reminded how wealthy and blessed I am in the 21st century. I live just as comfortably as that rich gentleman did with his servants and abundance of fancy furniture. Everything is relative.

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