“….to tell the stories of the people who lived here.” The mission statement of the Robbins Hunter Museum, adopted five years ago, continues to inspire and enlighten what we do here. We knew that in 1860, Sylvester Spelman lived here with his middle-aged daughter Charlotte who had been left deaf from a childhood illness. It seemed to us like a rather quiet house with just two adults in residence. A simple trip to the census records for 1860 revealed a much different scenario. Spelman had married Mary after the death of his first wife.
Another big surprise was that Reverend Burton, his wife Sarah, and their four children were boarders in the home. Also we learned that Adeline, a domestic helper, aged 22, from Wales and her three-year-old child, Olive, were residing in the big house on East Broadway. So now we know that these rooms were home to eleven people ranging in age from three years to mid-sixties. That changed how we thought about the way people lived here. We had confirmation of the help that contributed to the running of the house.
This summer, if you come for a visit, you will see evidence of Adeline’s work. In the main parlor, one of the gold leaf mirrors is covered in netting to prevent fly specks from attacking the gold leaf. Muslin covers one of the blue velvet loveseats. Walking into Charlotte’s bedroom, you’ll see a stack of bed linens and nightgowns, all freshly laundered, ironed, and ready to be put away. A copper bath tub allows docents to interpret the bathing ritual in a day when water had to be pumped from the well, heated on the wood stove, carried to the bathing area, and then the domestic would have helped rinse the bather.
Being able to verify that the Spelmans actually did have help, that the help lived in the house, where they came from and how old they were brings factual information to help interpret the work of running a large home in the Village of Granville in the mid-nineteenth century.
Plan a visit soon to see for yourself how the tour interpretation continues to grow and be enriched by new information. We are open all summer, Wednesday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Admission is free.