Friday, July 11

Johnston Farm and Indian Agency--Piqua, Ohio

There's a place a little over an hour south of us in a little town called Piqua, Ohio.  It began as a fort back in the 1790s and slowly grew from there, but settlers were somewhat wary of settling near the several Indian tribes that also occupied the area.  In the early 1800s, a man named John Johnston, a colonel in the American army, began operating a government agency in the area to help with communications between the native Indians and Americans, and the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency was established.  Shortly after his move there, the Miami-Erie Canal came through the area, helping to increase the population of the town. 

This, of course, is a very simplified version of how the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency came to be.  Should you be interested in reading a full historical account, please visit the Farm's website: Johnston Farm and Indian Agency.

Since I first discovered this living history farm, I've wanted to visit.  We finally had the opportunity over the weekend, and I really enjoyed this well-preserved piece of history.  One of my great loves and passions is historic architecture, especially historic homes and farms, and if I could have a historic home for my own, it would be a dream come true.  I love to think about the way that our ancestors lived before the instant gratifications of today: cell phones, internet, television programs that can be watched anytime and anywhere... however, fewer and fewer of these architectural gems exist, being torn down to make way for new highways, Wal-Marts, gas stations, etc.  But this is another topic for another day.  Because they are few and far between, I pounce on the opportunity to visit any historic place that is open to the public.  Some places are well-preserved and cared for, others are less than perfect--the Johnston Farm is the former.

The park offers tours of a restored c. 1815 brick farm home, several outbuildings, and a ride up and down a remaining part of the Miami-Erie Canal, which was a real treat. 
Neither my husband nor I knew that river canals still existed, but as we learned on the boat ride, there are still small stretches across the state that people can view if they know where to find them.  The boat trip, which lasted about 45 minutes, took us up to the nearest remains of a lock and back. 
Along the way, we listened to the boat's narrator describe what life was like during the heyday of the canals (1820s-1850s) while viewing the scenery.  We even saw a giant snapping turtle sunning himself on a fallen tree!

This sweet mule towed the boat up the canal and back for us.

Her friend and co-tower, Montana Whiskey, was in the barn on this day, because he had lost a horse shoe and seemed to be favoring that hoof, but  he kept us company as we strolled out to the Indian mound found on the property. 

As you can see, he had quite the personality!

He also allowed us to take a look at his large, hand-hewn beam double pen barn that predated the house by about five years. 
It was wonderful to see the construction of this old barn--many of the beams still had bark on some of the sides, and the joints and floor boards were secured with wooden pegs instead of iron nails.

There were also a few of these giant, hollowed-out stumps that were made into storage bins:
What a great idea for using stumps!
The inside of the bin, with my flash on.  It looks like they might have burned the inside...?

While waiting for a tour of the home, we also toured the other outbuildings on the property.  This is the apple shed/cider house:

This is the outdoor courtyard with a cooking hearth and bake oven:

This is the outdoor fruit-drying kiln:
This is the garden shed:

And this is the springhouse, which also predates the house by about five years:
The springhouse is an impressively cool (temperature-wise) building that houses a large loom and a few spinning wheels.  They believe that the upper floor was dedicated to textile production.
The lower level has spring water running in and through it, providing the family with a cool place to store goods such as milk and butter as well as providing fresh drinking water, and also has another room with a fireplace for possibly making candles and soap, and would have provided a cooler place to work at a fire.

This was Col. Johnston's home. 
The original log home, the first dwelling built on the property, no longer stands, but this grand brick home, built in two phases and styles, has been restored to its former beauty and grandeur, and the main two floors and the basement are open for tours.  The part of the house beginning at the Federal style door and to the left, is believed to be the older part of the house, or at least the first part of the home's construction.  On the inside, this parlor and the room above it of the same size would have easily been a one-over-one room house that the family could have lived in while the rest of the house was under construction.

A portrait of Colonel Johnston.

The right side of the house, built in the second phase, contained a formal dining room and bedchamber. 
The table set for a family feast.
The only access to the kitchen is down the stairs on the left of the fireplace.  Watch your head!  Another interesting design element is the off-centered mantle and mirror above the fireplace.  By the way, I love the mustard color paint.
I love these corner cupboards.  This contains several family artifacts.  The color is so great!
A secondary staircase just outside of the dining room leads directly into the girls' upstairs bedroom.

The second floor contained three bedrooms, one over the parlor of equal size, and two over the dining room and bedchamber that were connected. The sons' bedroom was over the parlor, and had three beds, each sleeping at least two boys.

The second bedroom was the grandmother's room, and had two beds.

The girls' room, with three beds and a trundle, was connected to the grandmother's room.
This mannequin properly displays the undergarments worn under dresses every day.
The interior of this house is typical of the Federal time period: partial wainscoting and chair rails, fireplaces in each room to battle the cold Ohio winters, varying width plank floors, six-over-six windows, deep window sills due to the thickness of the brick walls (they vary from three to five bricks thick), a Federal style main entrance,
main hall with doors at each end, windows on opposite walls to encourage cross-ventilation during the hot summer days, a deep covered surprise is that there was no kitchen on the main floors.  The only kitchen was in the basement, which is typically considered a summer kitchen.  In this house, however, this was the main kitchen all year.

These stairs lead up to the dining room.
The house itself is a great example of a blending of Federal interior and Dutch Colonial exterior architecture, with a gambrel roof, L-shaped layout, and balanced facade.  This farm house was stripped to the bare walls and completely restored, at a cost of $1.5 million in 1960!  That's the equivalent of over $11 million today.  Taking it back to the walls was necessary due to the state of the building at the time of the society's acquisition, but was money well spent, in my opinion.  The house is a must-see for anyone who has a love of American history and historic architecture.  Please check it out if you're ever in the area!

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