Victorian Elegance at Barnesville Mansion Museum
Feel the spirit of Victorian times in this elegant, historic mansion in Barnesville. The beauty of Barnesville Victorian Mansion Museum lasts year around, but comes alive at Christmas time when it is beautifully decorated in Victorian style.
Twenty-six rooms have been restored to the original style of its construction during 1888-1893 for John W. “Dias” Bradford, a well-known merchant and highly respected citizen of Barnesville. It took five years to build this fine Victorian home as a great architect worked with the finest craftsmen to finish everything to perfection. Not only did he build this fine house, but Bradford was also responsible for building the first bank in Barnesville.
Arriving through the carriage entrance, you’re greeted by a carved oak fretwork, a design formed by intricate scrolling. A winged griffin was included in the carving, as it was believed a griffin would prevent misfortune.
Everything speaks of elegance with eleven fireplaces, which have decorative carved wooden mantles. Woodwork throughout is handcarved so even the spirals on the banister have an individual air. The floors show a beautiful parquet design from room to room. Even the hinges on the doors have an intricate design, which was then matched on the doorknobs and staircase. No cost was spared.
Even at this early time, the builder had the foresight to wire the house for electricity. Therefore, the lights could use either gas or electric.
Finding drinking water in those early days created a problem. Most places had a cistern, which caught rain water and drainage from other sources. This water made everyone sick so it was only used for cleaning and bathing. Their drinks consisted of beer, cider, whiskey and wine. Life expectancy was forty-six years.
Inglenook, a special courting room, set back into the wall. The man sat on one end and the girl on the other. In this special room, the acoustics were such that they could talk softly to one another, but no one else could hear them.
The Growlery was the place men often met after dinner to discuss business while smoking and playing games. Beautifully carved ivory and clay pipes rested on the game table as well as an ornate spittoon and snuff bottles. A stereoscope had viewing cards handy.
While the house had many fireplaces, the one in the Growlery had a special charm. Made with blue and white tile from Consolidated Pottery of Zanesville, it contained the image of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt.
Bathrooms presented an interesting story as there were three inside, one downstairs – a powder room, and two upstairs. However, they were suspicious of going to an indoor toilet since they feared sewer gases could be dangerous. The servants’ rooms were located near the bathrooms.
The powder room and one upstairs bath had 22K gold decorations. Two 540 gallon tanks located on the third floor supplied running water.
In that day, most people took one bath a week. Every month they washed their hair with a special rinse of eggs and vinegar to give it a lasting shine.
Clocks held an importance far above just telling time. You could tell the quality of the home as well as their finances by the kinds of clocks they had on display. Taking care of the clocks was always the man’s duty, or sometimes the oldest son. The museum has a large clock collection on the third floor.
That third floor also held the ballroom, which was typical of Victorian mansions. Twelve couples could easily dance around the floor. An adjoining room held an old Victrola, organ and banjo.
Excellent guides created an informative day. They all enjoyed sharing stories of the mansion. One of those guides, Emery Stewart, started working at the museum when he was a student at Barnesville High School in 1966. His first assignment was to paint flowers on the bathtub in the upstairs bathroom. He’s been a volunteer ever since and loves his hometown of Barnesville.
One amazing picture, a “hair” picture, had been made from pieces of family hair. This unusual picture formed a family tree with pieces of each person’s hair on their branch of the tree. Lovingly made step by step by an aunt or grandmother, the whole family story could be told from the “hair family tree”.
Barnesville sat along the railroad line and was a wealthy city in its heyday, having eleven hotels, seventeen saloons, and several mansions. The Board members were very pleased to receive a grant from the Ohio Arts Council to be used for television broadcasting so they could share the history of their mansion and hometown.
The Barnesville Victorian Mansion Museum at 532 N. Chestnut Street is open for tours May 1 through October 1, Wednesday through Sunday from 1:00-4:00 pm. Groups and buses can be scheduled at any time by contacting the museum.
Specials events take place at the mansion throughout the year. They’ve had wine tastings, graveyard tours, and their lovely Christmas tour. Here you can see a Victorian style Christmas from the weekend after Thanksgiving until the weekend before Christmas.
Keeping the spirit of their beginning alive will hopefully carry over from generation to generation.
The Barnesville Victorian Museum is located at 532 N Chestnut Street in Barnesville, Ohio. Take OH-800 S off I-70 into Barnesville. Make a left on Walton Avenue and the museum will be on the left.