Monday, January 27, 2014

links to historic homes and house museums

      Historic house museums in the United States differ a great deal one from another. Some are organized around the person who lived there or the social role the house had. Consequently, they may contain objects that belonged to the inhabitants. This approach is mostly concerned with "authenticity". Other historic house museums may be partially or completely reconstructed in order to tell the story of a particular area, kind of life or period in time. This approach is guided by the "narrative" of the people who lived there. In each kind visitors learn about what they are seeing.
      Important to all historic house museums, however, is that the structure once was intended, or at least used, as a place of human habitation, and that the contents of the structure, now a museum, were intended for such places. Thus, if historic structures, though once homes, do not principally contain objects originally intended for the home AND have them arranged in a home-like ambiance, but instead have such objects arranged like a more typical museum, or principally contain displays and objects not originally intended for a home, then they should not be called "historic house museums."
Homes In Missouri:
  • The home and mill belonging to Waltus L. Watkins is very near to the town I grew up in. It has a marvelous man-made lake there and also a lovely bike path. The home and mill are in excellent condition. I grew up in the once small town of Liberty, MO. This little town had quite an unusual history. It would seem as though the townspeople could never make up their minds during the Civil War about who's side they were on. There are several historic homes there, in fact, that have old brick tunnels beneath them where slaves were hidden during the day and released at night. These tunnels have been filled in with clay and/or concrete because they became unstable over the passing of years. When I was young, I helped give guided tours through one of these beautiful old homes on Water Street during the holidays. Water Street is very near to the town square where Jesse James in broad daylight robbed the Clay County Bank. History enthusiasts can also tour the old James Family Farm in the nearby town of Kearney. Not far from the town square is William Jewell College. This college had a tumultuous past during both the Civil War and World War I and you can read about it here. Visitors should not pass up the chance to take two walking tours in Liberty. There is one of the college campus and another of the Lightburn Historic District. Included in that college tour, I'm assuming, is a quick look into the historic cemetery on Jewell campus.
  • When I was a school girl, students often took day trips to Fort Osage, the very first outpost of the United States built following the Louisiana Purchase. It was built by William Clark to show the British and the Spanish that the U. S. could protect their territories. It also had a very active trading post.
  • The very first permanent settlement in Missouri was at St. Genevieve, founded by the French in 1735. I love the historic charm of the architecture in this town.
  • See the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in Hannibal, MO.
  • St. Louis, gateway to the West, has many historical homes people may tour year round. The oldest building in this city is the Manuel Lisa Warehouse. It was built by a Spanish fur trader in 1818. In the old Cathedral there are exhibits portraying the early history of St. Louis. Overlooking the river is the Old Courthouse. It was completed by 1864 and it was used by the county/city for 85 years. Dred Scott was tried there to defend his status as a free man. The Eugene Field House still stands on South Broadway and is open to the public. Robert Cambell, who made a fortune in trade, built an ornate Victorian mansion on the Southwest corner of Fifteenth and Locust Streets. Grant's Farm is home to the Hardscrabble House. It was built by Ulysses S. Grant during the early years of his marriage to Julia Dent before the Civil War.
  • The Sappington House Museum was built by slave labor in 1808. It is located very near to the city of Kirkwood, Mo. Directly behind it is a charming library housing rare books and city history documents. There is also a tearoom at this complex where visitors can have brunch or desert.

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