The large main residence was built to meet the growing needs of a family, while the smaller house served as a retirement home for the grandparents. Provisions were made for a grandmother after she was widowed, and firewood and other necessities supplied by the family. The Grossmutter Haus allowed elderly or infirm grandparents to live independently, yet remain intimately connected to younger family members by sharing a tract of land that would eventually be passed on to future generations of descendants.
Despite decades of research and scholarship, a few intriguing mysteries do remain. One mystery that has fascinated many is the construction of an exterior wall of the main house. Although most of the Brick House is built of brick hence the name , one side features an irregularly shaped wall of both brick and stone. Looking at the side of the house, it is difficult to imagine why it was built that way.
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In the Tavern, constructed of local blue limestone, table and chairs fill one room and walls are lined with shelves brimming with old bottles. It is not hard for today's visitors to image wary travelers settling down to rest at the crossroads refuge after a long day's journey. A huge, brick-floored kitchen welcomes guests with its warm, aromatic atmosphere rising from commodious bowls of hearty fare. Dressed in authentic period clothing, a cook demonstrates how food was prepared and cooked on an open-hearth fireplace. The fare might be a cinnamon-flavored apple pie or spicy gingerbread, and it is difficult for most to resist the urge to sample a taste of such delicacies that reaches back through the years to another way of life.
Today, children are bemused by the stories recounted by interpreters and enjoy guessing what curious wooden boxes were used for. During special events, they enjoy listening to lively fiddle and dulcimer music, watching live sheep, riding a horse-drawn wagon, attending "school" in a typical rural one-room schoolhouse, carving a big orange pumpkin, or giggling at a visit from the Belsnickel, a feisty costumed character who appears at Christmas. Children have always been welcome at Landis Valley, where they can roam freely outdoors and are encouraged to ask questions.
The educational aspect of Landis Valley was always important to its founders. Henry and George Landis wanted people to learn about, appreciate, and remember the heritage of the Pennsylvania Germans. And so Landis Valley Museum emphasizes the education of its young visitors. The Landis Valley Fair in spring, the Harvest Days celebration in autumn, the Pumpkin Patch Weekend in October, and the Days of the Belsnickel in December are all events that encourage visitors-both young and old alike—to savor the pleasures of the past.
At each of the historic buildings at Landis Valley, children and adults are treated to sights and stories of the community. During Harvest Days, preparations were carried our for the mock funeral of Jacob Landis, a farmer, blacksmith, and owner of the Brick Farmstead, who died in Through researching extensive notes and diaries dating from the mid-nineteenth century, information was pieced together to re-create a mid-nineteenth century funeral.
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The educational component was provided with a living history presentation by Geraldine Horner, who portrayed a neighbor of Jacob Landis. Horner's spellbinding tale of how she learned of Landis' death, the foods she helped to prepare, and the customary practices of the day drew the audience into the lives of Jacob Landis' family and friends. After the presentation, a man entered a humorous comment in the museum's visitors register: "I was sorry poor Jacob died. He owed me money.
Each and every building and structure at Landis Valley Museum tells a story.
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In the rustic Log Farm, a simple mattress stuffed with shopped straw is topped with a feather bed in the stube or stove room, a combination living and sleeping room. A wardrobe holds essentials for the entire family, including linen and clothing. In the narrow kitchen, with its walk-in fireplace and simple farmhouse table, it is easy for visitor to imagine life on a working Pennsylvania German farm. One is easily transported back in time and can sense the comfort—the reward—of that feathery bed after a long day of hard work in the fields or at the hearth.
The span of time at Landis Valley simply adds dimension to the story. The effect can best be explained by a rambling walk through time, not really beginning at one point and traveling step by step to the next, but moving a random fashion from to and back again to , then on to , and so forth. Several buildings remain at their original locations at the crossroads of highways that once took travelers from Lancaster to Reading, Berks County. Some historic buildings were moved from other areas, such as the Maple Grove Schoolhouse that one stood near Leola in Lancaster County and a handsome one-and-a-half story house that originally stood on West Orange Street in downtown Lancaster.
Other buildings were constructed much later, built to enhance the museum complex.
The store is a showcase of Victorian period wares. In one corner an authentic post office, complete with pigeonholes, yields a glimpse of the days when the cost of a stamp was just a penny. Two antique wax mannequins, with tiny pearly teeth and glass eyes, serve as props to display fancy hats and jewelry. Indeed, they are eyes that look from the past and into the future.
The Landis Valley House Hotel proffers a more recent view of history in a restored Victorian era country hotel and would have served both travelers and local residents. Not merely a place to eat or socialize with friends and neighbors, it was the centerpiece of the crossroad community. Its first owner, Jacob Landis, sold the hotel to Isaac Landis in In addition to housing dining rooms, a barroom, and rooms for guests, the hotel also accommodated the Landis Valley Post Office for quite a few years.
At Landis Valley Museum there is no set timeline. The complex—and, especially, the visitor experience—is never frozen in one era. In much the same way that any community might grow, Landis Valley Museum has grown and evolved, one building at a time.
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The resulting mix of architecture is pleasing to the eye. Pretty white gingerbread detailing accents the pale beige of the Victorian era Landis House, surrounded by a white picket fence.
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The Erisman House, with white clapboard siding and slate blue shutters, is small and delicate in comparison to several of the larger buildings. Not far away, the Brick Farmstead stands strong and stalwart, sheltered beneath tall trees. In a nearby field the Log Farm, built of heavy logs, gives a glimpse into the lives of the area's late eighteenth century Pennsylvania German farmers. Indeed, Landis Valley is a visual feast with its intriguing buildings and structures, county meadows, meandering lanes, and majestic old trees.
Pathways lead to secret, secluded places, bordered by fences of every type, period, and description. In addition to handsome buildings and structures, the museum grounds are dotted with authentic kitchen gardens lush with herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits. Many plants were originally cultivated for medicinal purposes, such as feverfew and comfrey. Vegetables, including several oddly names species—Lazy Wife beans, Deacon Dan beets, and Deertongue lettuce—are grown in raised beds, along with flowers and herbs that include larkspur, calendula, sage, mugwort, and southernwood.
The orchards of Landis Valley are bountiful with antique fruit varieties, including the sheep nose, Cox's orange pippin, sops of wine, and smokehouse apples. Scion wood of these old-fashioned apples, as well as seeds of antique plants, are made available through the museum's Heirloom Seed Project, created to preserve these rare varieties. Each season at Landis Valley has its own special appeal.
In autumn, huge black walnuts tumble from golden trees, thumping to the ground. In spring, the sweet scents of blossoming flowers and flowering trees fill the air. In summer, visitors discover true indulgence in eating delicious ice cream while butterflies alight in meadows and fields. Even in winter, the snowy landscape and glistening ice-covered tree branched give an image of a holiday season that has been frozen, long ago in time, by Currier and Ives.
Each day, from May through October, Landis Valley Museum offers living history programs and craft demonstrations. On any given day, one might see wool being spun into yarn and woven into fabric of a massive loom watch as hot molasses cakes are taken out a Dutch oven, or see a team of huge farm horses pull a plow across a field.
The museum has become one of these cherished places where one can find quiet respite from the cares of the world. Once Henry and George Landis dreamed of crating a miniature Colonial Williamsburg, where Pennsylvania German heritage was preserved for all time. If they could walk the grounds of their museum and see what Landis Valley has become, surely they would be pleased. For those who wish to take home a little piece of Landis Valley, the museum's Weathervane Shop carries a distinctive array of traditional gifts and handcrafted items that reflect the Pennsylvania German heritage, such as books, theorem painting, pottery, and hand-woven textiles.
The Weathervane Shop is operated by the Landis Valley Associates, a nonprofit group dedicated to the continuing development of the museum. Associate members enjoy privileges that include free admission to the museum, special programs, and opportunities to serve as volunteer guides and demonstrators.
Membership is open to all. Landis Valley Museum is open every day except certain holidays.
Individuals visiting Landis Valley Museum will soon discover that Lancaster County literally abounds with historic attractions. In Strasburg, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, administered by the PHMC, chronicles the exciting history and fascinating technology of the Keystone State 's railroad industry, from the fabled age of steam to innovations of the twentieth century. The museum features an extensive collection of rolling stock and related railroading equipment and memorabilia.
Wheatland, the home of President James Buchanan — , is a fine example of Federal-style architecture. In , Buchanan purchased the property open to the public under the auspices of the James Buchanan Foundation for the Preservation of Wheatland while serving as secretary of state under President James K. After leaving the White House, he retired to what he called the "beau ideal of a statesman's abode," where he lived until his death at the age of seventy-seven.
Highlighting more than two centuries of fine and decorative arts crafter, used, or owned by countians, the Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County is located on Penn Square in center-city Lancaster. The Lancaster County Historical Society, founded in , collects, preserves, and interprets objects and artifacts documenting the county's history; facilities include a small museum, exhibition gallery, library, and an archives for genealogical research.
Also located in Lancaster if the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, which documents and interprets the background, religious beliefs and expression, culture, and genealogy of Mennonite and Amish groups originating in Pennsylvania, including their European backgrounds. Rock Ford Plantation, the eighteenth century mansion of General Edward Hand — , is located nearby.
For more information about these historic sites and museums, as well as other attractions in the area, write or visit: Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, Greenfield Road, Lancaster, Pennsylvania ; or telephone or TDD Laura Knowles Callanan of Lititz, Lancaster County, has pursued her writing career for nearly twenty years, focusing on history, travel, art, and culture. Tagged as: charlotte wessels , delain , sophie lancaster. View all posts by VV. By using the "Make A Donation" button below, you can donate a small amount of money to help us cover the maintenance costs and contribute to one of the biggest and fastest growing international non-profit projects of its kind.
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