Julia and I have just spent a few days visiting my mom, sisters, and cousins in New Jersey. We had to fit in a quick visit before she started summer school today. We both had a great time and Julia learned to swim in my mom's heated pool without a floatie which is the best news. Last summer she was on the verge of swimming but just didn't have the confidence to take off the floatie. Last week, there wasn't a "bubble" available. She was nervous at first but then figured out she could do it and there was no looking back. It's too bad we didn't have a few more days. The cousins really spurred her on.
Usually when we're at Mom's with cousins and aunts, we don't do a lot except hang around and visit. But this trip, my sister Nancy and I decided that the kids needed a bit of culture. Gustav Stickley's "Craftsman Farms" is only about fifteen minutes from Mom's house. I had been there once several years ago but boy has it changed. If you aren't familiar with Gustav Stickley, he was one of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 20th century in America. His furniture made by his company is widely collected and the ideas he spread with his "The Craftsman" Magazine (published between 1901 and 1916) are so current with the times we are living in. Amazingly, you can find the archives of The Craftsman Magazine on line HERE.
Gustav Stickley had big ideas and for many years his business prospered. He had his own building in NYC at 6 East 39th Street which housed his showrooms and a restaurant. He purchased 650 acres of land in Parsippany NJ and planned to build a school for young boys to learn life skills. On his farm, he also built several cottages, a cow barn, milking room, horse barns and grew produce which he used for his restaurant in NYC. Eventually, he abandoned his school idea and decided to build his family a home on the farm (shown above). This is the home you can tour today.
Craftsman Farms is a jewel - it sits very close to Route 10 in Parsippany and there is a very tiny sign mentioning its National Historic Landmark status. I'm sure most people who live in that area of New Jersey have never visited it. The tour is informative and generous and we really got the feeling of Stickley's ideals by seeing the rooms, furniture and textiles.
Sadly, Stickley went bankrupt in 1917 and the home and property was sold. Luckily, The Farny Family purchased the home, complete with all the furniture. They lived in it until the 1980's and kept it just the way Stickley had designed it with the exception of painting and decorating. The home was in danger of being destoyed for a townhouse complex but in 1989 the Township of Parsippany purchased it and a foundation was set up to preserve the home. The furniture had all been auctioned off but over the years, the Foundation has been able to purchase some and much has been donated.
My favorite thing about the house is all of the handmade touches that still remain. There are several hoods over the fireplaces and each has a hand-hammered saying etched upon it. My favorite is this one from Chaucer: "The Lyf So Short, The Craft So Long To Lerne."
A trip to this house museum is surely worth it if you are a fan of such places. Next visit to NJ, we're going to try to see Thomas Edison's house in West Orange.