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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The "They Found My Hat In Harriet Lane's Boudoir! - Part II" Story

The front of "Wheatland" which faces President Ave.
It was an ordinary day.  Getting ready to take you with me as I head up the staircase in President James Buchanan's "Wheat- land".   The entrance that is used for tours is in the rear.  But, the main entrance facing President Ave. is awesome.  The home consists of a two and one-half story central section flanked by three-story wings.  
Nancy stands at the top of the stairs in the
rear of the house.  Mahogany and maple
bannister takes you to the second floor.
The main block of the building contains a central hall with two matching rooms on either side; there are 17 rooms in all.  A Doric-columned porch dominates the front of the main section of the house.  Very few changes were made over the years except for the installation of a furnace and central heating, replacement of the open hearth in the kitchen with a cast-iron stove and the addition of a modern convenience in the form or a tin bathtub.  The last private owner of "Wheatland" is the George B. Willson family who purchased the home in 1881 from Harriet Lane who had inherited if from her uncle James. "Wheatland" was then inherited by a relative of Mr. Willison in 1929 and eventually put up for sale.  
The coral colored Mortgage button on the newel post.
In 1936 The Junior League of Lancaster purchased the home.  Today Lancaster- History.org retains 10 acres of the original 22 acre property, including the home and three outbuildings.  Well, back to the tour.  My tour guide, Nancy ushered me up the stairwell to the second floor.  The awesome bannister is made of mahogany with 111 spindle balusters made from tiger maple.  
Harriet Lane's bedroom.  I was checking out the wire signaling
system alongside the bed when my hat must have slipped
from my jacket pocket and fallen on the floor.  It was found
later and returned to me outside of "Wheatland".
The carpet is not original, but does match the Venetian Stripe pattern that was in the house when it was built.  We first went to Harriet Lane's bedroom which was covered in wallpaper with white curtains.  It reminded me of a woman's room.  Under one window stood a small desk while on the floor, closer to the door, was a huge chest that evidently was used for travel.  
A small desk or perhaps a make-up area
are lit with natural light in the room.
It had several stickers on it showing she had traveled out of the country.  Out of all the items in the house, the chest was one of my favorites.  Reminded me of the three small suitcases Carol and I have covered with stickers from all the locations we have visited.  The small middle room was said to have been occupied by James Buchanan "Buck" Henry, Buchanan's nephew.  "Buck" was James' sister's son.  When his sister and brother-in-law both died, James made a home for "Buck" with him just as he had done with Harriet.  We next visited James' bedroom.  In the closet was a simple jacket and two top hats.  A Daguerreotype of what the room looked like when James occupied it was on display.  The room was made to look like it was in the photograph.  
Harriet Lane's traveling case.
In one corner of the room was a chair commode which was the only method they had for bathroom facilities.  The house wasn't electrified until in the 1930's, so lanterns were the means of lighting the home in the evening.  James' bed was quite high, but not in excess for a man over six foot tall.  On the floor was a tin wash basin showing how people would bathe.  The home did not have a bath tub until after James died when Harriet had one installed in 1868.  One thing I noticed as I was leaving Buchanan's bedroom was the frog doorstop.  I visited "Wheatland" last summer to take a photo of the pond near President Ave.  
The middle bedroom was sparsely
furnished and is where "Buck" slept.
James loved frogs, thus the pond.  The final bedroom belonged to Esther "Miss Hetty" Parker, James' housekeeper who lived in "Wheatland" the entire life of Buchanan.  From the corner of Parker's room, steps led down to the kitchen.  Nancy showed me photographs of what the kitchen used to look like when it was first built, how it had been changed, and then changed once again until it looks as it does today.  As I stood in front of where the oven used to be, I looked to my right and saw the remains of the dumbwaiter that was in the house.  Well, my tour was over and as Nancy placed her hand on the old metal handle to usher me out, I thanked her for the informative and interesting tour I had of Lancaster's President of the United States.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.



Closet in James Buchanan's bedroom.
A Daguerrotype of what James' bedroom looked like. 
The commode. 
James' bed.  Sitting on the floor to the left, behind the rope, is what was used for bathing.  You stood in the small metal basin and poured water over your head.  Thank goodness for modern showers.
The small frog doorstop can be seen here.
A metal bathtub was only added in 1868 by Harriet Lane.
Wash basins stand on a table across from the tub.
The final bedroom belonged to Miss Hetty.  It was very simple with little furniture. 
The stairs lead from the second floor to the kitchen.
The kitchen with the area were the stove used to be.  
Another Daguerrotype showing the original stove in the kitchen.
This stove, as shown in this Daguerrotype, was installed by the Willsons.
The remains of the dumbwaiter can be seen to the left of the photo.  It would go from the kitchen in the cellar to the second floor.
The lock on the kitchen door used to allow me to leave.
Kathy said Good-Bye to me as I left after my tour.  Little did she know she would be asked to search for my lost hat and have to return it to me.

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