The Hiestand-McKenna Bedroom
Written by Wanda Nelson
"The preservation of our country's past is vitally important to me, feeling as I do that our young people should be made aware of the significance of former generations' contributions to our present way of life, and feeling that their heritage of the past must not be lost or forgotten. Mrs. Elizabeth Hiestand McKenna February 16, 1973
A plaque on the door of an upstairs bedroom at the Dean House reads, "Hiestand-McKenna Bedroom. Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Donald McKenna.'
Who were the Hiestands and the McKennas?
Jacob and Mary Hiestand were settlers who came to Blooming Grove from Ohio in 1850. Jacob brought with him some tobacco seeds and thus became the area's first tobacco grower. The family thrived and Jacob and Mary's son, Harry married Lucy Hall around the turn of the century. Their daughter, Elizabeth, married Donald McKenna. Both the Hiestand and the McKenna names have a long history of contributions to the settling of the Blooming Grove area. Donald McKenna was a well-known developer in this area.
For example, about 1855, a frame schoolhouse was built across the road from the Hiestand farmstead. This Blooming Grove Township school was named for Jacob Hiestand. The original frame building was razed in 1915 to make way for a fully modern stucco-covered building that stands in the 4400 block of Milwaukee Street today. This simple building, with its hipped roof and belfry, was the latest in modern educational facilities in its day, boasting central heat, running water and indoor plumbing. This building was designated a Madison landmark on April 19, 1976, by the Madison Landmarks Commission.
Dean House Helps Preserve the Hiestand Legacy
When Lucy Hall Hiestand was married around the turn of the century, she received as a wedding gift the bedroom suite that stands in the northwest bedroom of the Dean House today. The bedroom suite was designed by Charles Eastlake, an Englishman who was an officer in the British Institute of Architects. He also designed furniture in this medieval gothic style.
According to A Guide to Victorian Antiques, by Raymond F. and Marguerite W. Yates, a book published in 1949, this furniture was manufactured in what is considered the Late Victorian Period (1870-1901). With the advent of power-driven machinery wood carving, this furniture style became very popular.
The Dean House is a special place where we support Elizabeth's thoughts on the need to preserve our past to make sure that the past is not lost or forgotten. And to make sure that all of us, including our young people, can come here and look and touch and imagine what life was like for Nathaniel and Harriet Dean when they lived here in this home. And to remember the contributions of former generations. So, because of Elizabeth's legacy, we can begin to imagine what life was like for young Lucy Hiestand McKenna when she set up homemaking with her new three-piece bedroom suite sent to her all the way from Illinois in 1901.
The Hiestand-McKenna Bedroom
Dominating this room are Lucy's bedstead, dresser and secretary. Manufactured in Illinois and shipped to Wisconsin, this furniture has many unique design features. For example, the beveled mirror on the dresser, called a pier mirror, is noteworthy. because it is long enough so that Lucy could see all the way to the floor to check to see if her pantaloons were showing. Eastlake's furniture design eliminated the usual higher dresser drawers to accommodate this long mirror. All of the pieces have decorations carved by power-driven machinery--the new technology at the turn of the century. The secretary has lots of nooks and crannies that would have held the stationery and other tools that Lucy might have used for her daily correspondence. The ink stains on the desk and in the drawer attest to the fact that this piece of furniture was indeed used. Note the unusual drawer pulls and other design details. This furniture was donated to the Dean House by Lucy's daughter, Elizabeth Hiestand McKenna, in 1985.
In addition to unique furniture, this room contains many other special antiques. The black ball gown hanging on the mannequin was made to wear at President William McKinley's inaugural ball in Washington D.C. in 1897. It was worn by a lady from Otsego, Wisconsin. The other party dress with its hoop skirt was sewn from a reproduction pattern in 1976. Also, note the black silk parasol in the corner. It was purchased at the World's Fair in Chicago in 18931
Other Special Objects
The room is filled with the kinds of treasures that Lucy might have had around her at the turn of the century. The 'crazy quilt" at the foot of her bed could have been made by her using the scraps of silk, velvet and other fancy fabrics she saved and traded with her friends. The embroidery on this crazy quilt is lovely. Take a close look. Can you find the axe or hatchet design? How about the hammers, or spoons, or ducks, and the many other geometric shapes?
The books found around the room are interesting too. Did Lucy read Jane Austen or Longfellow, or Burns' Poems or George Eliot? Did she have to wear the little spectacles when she read in her leisure time? The velvet-covered photo albums contained precious photographs of friends and family. Did she page through these albums during idle times? The doll sitting in the chair was donated by the Madison Doll Club and is worth over $1,000 today, but at the turn of the century was this doll a special gift from someone?
The items on the dresser illustrate life at the turn of the century as well. The stand with the shaving mug and shaving brush tell of a time before electric razors. And the ivory-colored dresser set with its hand mirror, brushes, nail buffers, hair depository, tray and shoe horn tell of another time in lady's grooming. The button hook tells of a by-gone detail in ladies' clothing styles.
There is a framed poem in the Hiestand-McKenna Bedroom that reads:
Welcome Guest We wish you in this quiet room sweet rest.If dreams come, may they pleasant be, Dear Guest.When you awake, then may the sunshine clear greet you and tell you how glad we are to have you here.
The members of the board of the Historical Blooming Grove Historical Society hope you come and visit this quiet room so we can say to you, "We are glad to have you here.'