The Dean House

The Living Area

Written by Wanda Nelson

Untitled Document

The Dean House Project

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Today HBGHS members and community groups hold meetings around the large dining room table. However, one can imagine in yesteryear extended farm families and workers seated around this extended linen-covered table to enjoy heaps of buttery mashed potatoes and roast chicken and gravy then topping off the meal with huge wedges of "cinnamony" apple pie. After dinner they would move to the adjacent living room to relax.

The Dining Room

Today, the large harvest-type table is usually set with the tea leaf pattern of Royal Ironstone China, made in England. The mahogany china cabinet holds what would have been the family's treasured silver pieces and glassware. Notice the beautiful silver tea and coffee service on top of the cabinet and on the first shelf. The beautiful blue and white serving platter is called Chinese flow ware and is a very valuable addition to this collection.

If you look closely at the matched set of glass pieces you will find decorating each piece a man's face with his head adorned in a full Viking headdress. This "Viking" pattern sits on the top of the covered dishes as well as on the "feet" on the footed dishes. The large set includes a stemmed serving dish, various sizes of covered serving dishes (both oval and round), a compote, sherbet dishes, a creamer and sugar bowl, a marmalade jar, an apothecary jar, and a large pitcher. These pieces probably were not used every day, but were kept safe in the cabinet just waiting for special occasions such as a Sunday dinner with the pastor, a special birthday party or maybe a gathering of quilting friends for a special luncheon.

Paintings and Pictures

The paintings on the walls give us an idea of how area buildings have evolved over the century. Those familiar with today's Nichols School and Frank Allis School can hardly believe that those large brick structures started as the tiny wooden buildings shown in the paintings. Hanging above the china cabinet there is a painting of the old Blooming Grove Town Hall from 1871--now destroyed. Another painting depicts the original Hope Lutheran Church that was destroyed by fire. These paintings were done from old photographs and memory by artists in a Madison Area Technical College art class.

The picture behind the oval curved glass is a photograph of a homestead in the area. While we cannot identify the exact farm, the buildings are reminiscent of many of the area's farms: the house with its "L-shaped" addition, the tobacco shed, the milk house, the barn, the granary, the chicken house, and the outhouse.

The wooden clock on the wall; called a "36-hour brass clock and time piece" was made by the Waterbury Clock Company in Waterbury, Connecticut. Look closely and you will see It has a "reverse" painting on the glass door. When the clock is wound regularly, it still runs and chimes every hour.

On the wall by the door is a carved wooden letter holder with leather hinges held in place by brass brads. One can imagine that this piece was a "catch all" for mail, calendars, newspapers, bills, and other various and sundry items.

The Stove

Dominating the room is the Armada Windsor cast-iron wood-burning space heater stove with its nickel trim, "National model No. 217." Note the isinglass windows in the door and the fancy top that can be moved aside to accommodate a teakettle. Without central heat, this stove was essential to make this room comfortably warm for those who spent a winter day working outside on the farm or had walked home from school through the snow.

The Living Room

In our imagination, we can just about see a cozy family gathering in the living room. Maybe mother would play the pump organ or the dulcimer and father would sit at the desk writing letters back to the old country with a quill ink pen. Children might be figuring sums with chalk on a slate board or lounging on the fainting couch reading a book by kerosene lamp light. The small iron stove in the comer would help to ward off a winter chill in the room.

Where do these images come from? Let's look more closely for clues. The pump organ dominates the room and just invites someone to sit down and begin to play. The small oak bookcase holds a book of children's poetry as well as other books the family would have treasured. On the desk there is a wooden, intricately -carved penholder and inkwell cap. Brass candlesticks hold candles that would provide light in the dark of evening. A small rocker without arms would make it easy for a musician to hold the dulcimer in her lap and play and sing to her family.

Other Interesting Treasures

Look at the violin neck on the desk. It was carved by Knute Reindahl, a nationally-known violinmaker who lived on the shores of Lake Monona. People came from all over to his home here to commission work on a special instrument.

The hand-carved bookends on the bookcase were made from pieces of an organ from Hope Lutheran Church, built in 1895 and remodeled in 1945. The bookends hold history books of the day.

The woolen hooked and braided rugs on the floor were locally made and are especially fine examples of the type of rugs made by hand by the women of the house. The braided rug in the living room almost covers the entire floor and is exceptionally well done. Note the varied bands of vibrant colors: each braid contains a bright color, a black strip and a more neutral strip to give the rug symmetry and life. The smaller hooked rugs here and throughout the house provide a "painting on the floor" with their intricate designs and vivid colors.

Finally, dominating the room are the portraits of Harriet Morrison Dean and Nathaniel W. Dean, the first owners on the Dean House. These paintings were done from old photographs and give us an idea of who the people were who built this beautiful home.

By Wanda Nelson

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