ROCHESTER, MN (FOX 47) --The city of Rochester is full of history. One of those pieces of history happens to be the “Heritage House Victorian Museum.” It's located just north of the Mayo Clinic. This beautiful, Italianate home, was constructed in 1875 and was the focal point of what was then known as “Lower Town.” Pat Feeser, who is a board member and expert tour guide, took “FOX in the Morning” on a tour that goes back in time nearly 140 years.
“It was built in 1875 by Timothy and Eliza Whiting. Timothy and his brother were grain merchants.They ran the grain elevator, which was very necessary in those days. It was built about two to three blocks up Broadway, across from where Dairy Queen is now located,” explained Feeser. It was lived in by a Whiting until the 1940's. And then, it was a boarding house and an apartment house. Then it was going to be torn down and a street was going to go through it. Then, a lady from the city, Louise Hill, found out about it, got there, kept it, talked to the mayor and donated quite a bit of money, in order to save it. It was moved and stored for a year. And it was brought here in the early 1970's,” Feeser said.
There is quite a lot that has changed in households since the nineteenth century. For instance, the formal dining room table is not how we would dress it in 2014. “It would have been a lot more formal. We have become a very casual society,” Feeser stated. “Some of the differences nowadays are that we generally wouldn't have Haviland china to eat off of, because it has to be washed by hand, which a lot of folks don't do anymore. We also have a master salter, with a spoon, that is used to put salt into your salt cellar. Then we have a little salt spoon that one would use to sprinkle salt with on food. Also, there is a butter plate, instead of a margarine tub and a bone dish which would take your bones,” explained Feeser. Feeser also mentioned another detail that differs from most modern day dining rooms. “The children were not allowed into the formal dining room until they had table manners. And as a lady told me one time, sometimes they never get in here,” Feeser said chuckling.
When the house was moved to its current location in the 1970's, not everything was moved, including a a family dining room. Feeser goes on to explain: “ We are depicting this room as the kitchen. Focal to it would be our cook stove which is very unusual. It has two doors on the oven. There's also a toe-pad that will kick this door open so that you could put things in the oven easily,” Feeser said. Speaking of modern necessities, one soon realizes that this house in its original state was lacking one major modern day necessity: plumbing. “In those days, they didn't have bathrooms. So, there would have been a basin and a wash bowl next to the bed. There would be a razor, for the gentlemen, with a shaving mirror and a shaving cup that would contain soap and hot water. There would be a strop located next to these supplies, to keep the razor sharp, so one wouldn't cut themselves with a dull blade. And of course, for the one activity that we don't speak about, one would use a chamber,” said Feeser. Another unique item to note was the mirror, located just above the stairs. The mirror is off the ground and is slightly slanted, to allow the women to be able to see their feet. “In those days, women couldn't show their petticoat, or heaven forbid, their ankles. So, that's why the mirror was placed as such,” explained Feeser.
And so, if one wishes to learn about the heritage of Rochester, just visit the Heritage House Victorian Museum. To see history is one thing, to walk through it, is another.