Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Giddings Family Home (formely John Giddings House, Secretary House, and Secretary Pearson House)

Once the grand opening ceremony to dedicate Greenfield Village on October 21, 1929 was over, architect Ed Cutler set up his office in the Plymouth House and immediately began work on the next project for the Village. Although several projects proceeded simultaneously, undoubtedly the first one to be completed was the reconstruction of the beautiful Secretary Pearson House, originally standing on Meeting House Hill in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1750.

The visiting parlor

This wonderful example of a New England colonial home was originally built by John Giddings, a prosperous merchant and shipbuilder, who lived there with his wife, Mehetable, and their five children. After 1790, it became the home of New Hampshire's first Secretary of State, Joseph Pearson.

Cutler found the house having numerous additions added years after its original construction, and, by studying its layout, restored it to what he believed to be its earliest condition., which included a secret staircase leading to the attic (this was also included in its Greenfield Village restoration).

Period-dressed docents speak to patrons about everyday life during the colonial times.

The house, brought to the Village in carefully numbered pieces in 1929, lay in a pile in the Village during the dedication ceremony, but was up by the summer of 1930. The dining room is furnished with Queen Anne furniture pieces.

It seems, though, that the home was not opened until 1933, as they were using a portion of the Edison Institute Museum (as the Henry Ford Museum was then known) to mix and match furniture for the different room arrangements. It's nice to know that Ford took the time to give this home the historical accuracy it deserved.

The Giddings kitchen, which, to my knowledge, has never been open to the general public, was finally able to be viewed during the Christmas season of 2010 when they had a 'chocolateer,' - one who makes chocolate - working his craft as it would have been done 250 years ago.

The kitchen inside the Giddings home, very typical of the colonial kitchen, is located in the back of the house. This room in which the cooking took place was also called the 'hall' rather than the kitchen.

Of course, the hearth was the focal point, deep and wide, and many a time having pots and kettles hung on swinging iron cranes attached to the side wall.

Upstairs bedroom

An inventory taken at the time of Pearson's death in 1823 made it possible to furnish the home as it was during his lifetime. However, the Secretary House today is geared toward the Giddings era of the mid-to-late 18th century, replicating the lifestyle of the upper middle class of that time.

The Queen Anne chest of drawers pictured above originally belonged to the family of Josiah Bartlett (1729-1795), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the first governor of New Hampshire

Many evenings were spent knitting, crocheting, and writing letters - all by candlelight.

The Giddings House is truly one of the finest of all the homes in Greenfield Village. A wonderful example of a strong middle class colonial living.


1 comment:

Anthony S said...

Thank you for the detailed post and photos! It's nice to see what the house looks like with interpreters (we went a few weeks ago and found the rooms had been blocked off by plexiglass, sadly.)