BRICK FARMSTEAD

By 1800, life in rural Pennsylvania had changed considerably from the settlement period of twenty-five to seventy-five years earlier. Most of the land was occupied and cleared. The settlers' rude houses and barns were being replaced by larger, more comfortable structures built to stand for generations. The commercial agricultural system was becoming more sophisticated and depended more heavily than ever on the production and marketing of large surpluses of cereal grains, most notably wheat. It was a period of significant change and the numerous substantial brick or stone farm houses and commodious, solid barns of the period testify indirectly to the prosperity of the era and the confident, forward-looking attitude of the day.

The Brick Farmstead at Landis Valley dates from the early 19th century and reflects the temper and conditions of the day as well as the character of the people who lived here. The two houses are original to the site and were restored and made a part of LVM during the 1960's.

The larger home was built about 1815 to meet the needs of a growing family. Heat was better distributed by the four open fireplaces; lighting was improved with the introduction of whale oil lamps; and cooking was made easier with the use of the ten-plate stove.

Most of the furnishings are of a later period than that of the house's origin. It is treated as the home of a member of the third generation following the parents' retirement from active farming.

An assortment of utilitarian furniture, some gaily painted, is used in the kitchen, family room, and first floor bedroom. The little-used parlor boasts a tall case clock and a corner cupboard.

As the purchasing power of rural families increased, more refinement in the farm home became possible. The whitewashed walls provide an excellent background on which to display the family's proud possessions of art: fraktur drawings, samplers, prints and paintings.

Behind the houses stands a large wood and stone barn with a cantilevered forebay. The barn is a reconstruction of the Swiss bank barn which was very popular in southeastern Pennsylvania in the 19th century. Bank barns were usually built into hillsides so that there were easily accessible entrances to both the lower and upper levels. The lower level contained stable areas for horses and cattle while the upper level contained threshing area, hay lofts, and granary. The advantages of the bank barn were many: the threshing floor was separated from animal quarters; wagons laden with hay or grain could be driven directly into the upper level and unloaded with comparative ease; the projecting forebay provided improved shelter for the livestock; and hay could be fed to the livestock simply by dropping it into the stable area through a trap door from the loft above. All in all, the bank barn was an efficient structure and can be seen as a symbol of the agricultural prosperity of 19th century Pennsylvania.

The adjacent one and a half story brick house was built about 1850 by the family's retiring parents -- thus the name "Grossmutter Haus" or, in English, "Grandmother House". It allowed for sharing the labor and rewards of farm life among an extended family unit while permitting each generation to enjoy a measure of independence and privacy -- a common practice in this part of Pennsylvania.

The small rooms of the "Grossmutter Haus" accommodate a minimal amount of furniture which is simple but adequate to the reduced activity of an aging couple. A simple wooden dry sink laden with accessories and an enclosed fireplace with built-in oven make up the kitchen's work area. The parlor is furnished with pieces from an earlier period, reflecting the tastes of an elder generation.

The usual outbuildings --bake oven, privy, and stable --would have met the needs of both families.