Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1840 House

A couple of things recently reminded me of a really cool museum that used to exist in Baltimore, The 1840 House.

The 1840 House was part of the City Life Museums. It was a house built in (guess what year?) that was fully furnished as near to the real deal as possible. They had used records of the family that owned the house to set up the house as they may have had it, using real period items for the most part (there may have been replicas to, not sure)

I went to a high school for the arts. Before you ask- yes, it was exactly like Fame. One of the many neat programs the theatre students got to be involved in was an opportunity to perform a play at the 1840 House.

This opportunity was so cool on so many levels. Professionally, I think it was the first time I ever got paid for an acting gig. (I'm pretty sure we got paid, it might have been volunteer, but I think we got a very small stipend) As students we got to work with real, adult working actors.

As a performance experience, we performed the play in different rooms of the house, scurrying down back stairwells as the audience was led in different directions. The audience stood along the walls of the room- so they were RIGHT THERE. We got to use the period items in the rooms ( I remember in particular a scene that took place in the sister's shared bedroom, my scene partner and I had been instructed to sit on the edge of the antique beds so as not to do any damage to the rope holding up the mattress) and authentically constructed costumes so it was very easy to immerse yourself in the world of the play.

I can't remember if it was at the opening of the play or the closing, but we got to participate in a meal cooked in the kitchen of the house, prepared on a hearth just as it would have been in those times. We chopped vegetables with period utensils and I tasted the first sweet potato pie I ever had cooked in a dutch oven in the coals. (no other pie has ever measured up I'm afraid)

I really loved experiencing history in this visceral way. Much more intimate than a Colonial Williamsburg type visit. I often wondered if it was as powerful a journey for the people that came to see the play- or if they just thought it was lame. ( I don't remember the writing being particularly amazing)

Sadly, the museum appears to have closed in 1997. Here are the few links I have managed to locate on the museum:

3 Things:
- Changing your mind
- Planning birthday parties for 4 year olds
- Watching the President on TV en famille


Anonymous said...

This building looks incredibly similar to many of the buildings in downtown Charleston, SC - one of my favorite cities. Lisa

Styling with Renee Michelle said...

That sounds like such a neat experience. I wish the museum was still around so we could go check it out.

Lakeview Coffee Joe said...

Sounds cool....even for us non-artsy types. Mmmmm....sweet potato pie.......