This week we had the opportunity to visit two very historic homes in our area. The tours were fabulously educational and fun.
The first home we visited was the Willoughby Baylor Home which is now the Norfolk History Museum. The home was built in 1774. Built on a 200 acre land grant by Thomas Willoughby in 1636, this magnificent house is a classic example of Georgian and Federal architecture and it is filled with authentic 18th century furnishings that offer visitors a view of Colonial life for a middle-class family in 18th century Norfolk. A charming 18th century style garden is also located on the grounds.
This was an unguided tour with no docent. We were left to wander on our own. The floors were fabulous worn wood with nicks and character marks of 200 plus years. Ropes kept us from venturing to the well lit third floor attic.
We learned a tremendous amount about the Yellow Fever outbreak in 1855 in which one third of the cities population died. Whole families were overcome by the disease.
It was difficult getting good photos ( no flash allowed and lots of stuff behind glass).
The second home is the Moses Myers home.
The Moses Myers House is an exceptionally accurate picture of life in the 1700s, representing life as it was lived by the merchant class in prosperous Virginia. Moses Myers was a Jewish entrepreneur, civic leader, and patron of the arts, as well as an ancestor of former Norfolk mayor Barton Myers. The building was one of the first brick homes built in Norfolk after the British bombardment during the Revolutionary War. We experienced paintings, furnishings, clothing, and everyday artifacts all from five generations of this family.
The docent was fabulous! She gave us so much history and answered all our many questions. My oldest daughter had lots of questions and did a fabulous job of asking the docent. The house was a feast for her architecture mind. This house is an excellent example of the Federal Style.
Seventy percent of the furniture in the home are family orginals from the 1810 -1840 period. Most of it made by Thomas Newbern. It is known as Classical Norfolk Furniture. The family portraits are done by Gilbert Stuart. He is a famous artist of that time period.
A few facts:
The Leftover Dish: At the end of the meal leftovers were stored in the left over dish. Then the dish was taken up to the family for the nighttime meal or guest could munch when ever they were hungry. There was no refridgeration.
The gold on the Fire Place: This was painted over when the whole town went through economical ruin. A tax was levied any gold you had in your home.
The Safe: Was bolted to the floor. It was not moveable! The lock was in the middle of the top. It appears the metal was over an inch thick.
Decoration: Most was Roman in style. The foyer ceiling way called Pompeii. It was a new style for the period. Each room had a different style fire place surround and different moulding.
All the windows have indoor and outside shutters.
Outside steps were marble in the front and granite in the back.
The room with the piano forte and harp is the family room. Children under the age of 13 were not allowed down stairs in the formal rooms. Even the family room. Children did all of their activity on the third floor. There was a second floor room for the kids that seems to have been for a specific daughter. All the children were groomed in social graces: Boys in the business of shipping, gals in normal homemaking stuff, music, arts, and at least 3 languages.
You will notice game tables in every room. These tables are beautiful! No TV ect..so games and music was your entertainment.
The two matching hutches in the dinning room were built for the space...and locked into the space behind the moulding on the floor with the back legs of the hutch. One hutch is 1/2 inch smaller than the other.
The tea cups are from the orginal owners collection.
The clock in the foyer is from England and was the first piece of furniture placed in the home. It is older than the home.
The lamps in the music room ( on mantle with blue paint) are whale oil lamps. These were new to the era. They were suppose to burn brighter and cleaner.
Seveal of the rooms are still undergoing rennovation. In 2002 rennovation was started to undo what the Colonial Preservation Club started. The interior was painted in Colonial colors not Federal. ( very bright , where as federal is more subdued). Most of the orginal color has been discovered. Notice the pretty blue color in the foyer. Most of the walls are white and that is the color of the period. They are now trying to figure out the window coverings.
Moses Myers had slaves. They slept in the home on mats on the floor. There was a room on the second and third floors as well as above the outside kitchen. He often traded his slaves out when he did not need them to help in the shipping business. It is said that he treated them very well and most were what are called free slaves. Many of his slaves purchased slaves that were family to free them. Other free slaves would also purchase slaves just to have as workers under them.
The photos turned out much better at this house.
Following a tour of the to be renovated outdoor kitchen ( it is not really picture worthy in its present state) we wandered into the mall. Yes the mall! This treasure is in the center of a very busy city. Parking Garage on one side, mall on the other, and many more taller buildings. The gardens around the house keep it private and sancuary like.
At the mall we planned on a quick item off the dollar menu at Mc Ds and then return home to finish up our school day. However we ran into a friend who took us to a wonderful lunch at a diner in the mall.