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Hearthstone House to offer a new glimpse at servant life in 1800s

Hearthstone Historic House Museum offers a look into what it was like to be an elite member of society in the late 1880s, but a much more compelling story will be shared this June.
Hearthstone Historic House Museum
Posted at 4:00 AM, May 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-26 10:03:58-04

APPLETON (NBC 26) — Appleton is home to trailblazing technology that many of us take for granted every day.

Hearthstone Historic House Museum was the first private home in the world to be illuminated by using hydroelectricity from a central Edison system.

Technology like this continues to be used more than a century after it was invented

Flipping a switch to see what you're doing is something many of us do a few times a day without much thought. The switch was thrown on September 30, 1882 only two weeks after the first-ever Edison central station, which was powered by steam, was operational in New York City.

When Henry Rogers did it for the first time, he lit the way through the second industrial revolution and really brought power to Wisconsin and the rest of the country.

"It's also the first home in the world where you can do something we take for granted a thousand times a day. You walk into a room, you turn on the lights, and the power comes from somewhere else, and you have instant on-demand lighting," Museum Executive Director George Schroeder said.

Schroeder walked us through the entire Rogers' private living quarters

Schroeder walked us through the Rogers' personal living quarters, and that included daughter Florence Talbot "Kitty" Rogers' bedroom.

"But, the other side of this house is just as compelling. The servants who worked here lived in entirely different circumstances," Schroeder said.

Schroeder said servant Mary Deimer worked for the Rogers for years, and she did so with ease, because Hearthstone was so advanced in its day.

"From the power to the plumbing, the kitchen really showcases how far this home was ahead of its time. Here you have a sink, electricity and even a toaster. That might be commonplace today for any sort of kitchen, but more than a century ago, it helped Mary Deimer serve the Rogers around the clock," Schroeder said.

Schroeder discusses what it was like for the Rogers and their servants to use electricity for the very first time

"But, what maybe changed her life more than anything else is the icebox. The icebox is utterly revolutionary. She would be able to order ice. Put in a sign like this in the window, and get big blocks of ice here. This would keep food cold for three, four, or five days," Schroeder said.

Aside from the trailblazing technology, the attention to architecture and detail doesn't disappoint either.

"The parlor is an amazing place, because it's all about showing off. The Rogers don't hesitate to let you know that we have arrived," Schroeder said.

"You'll see on this side, it's all about showing off the beautiful woodwork in the hall here and the stained glass, the furniture. Everything was the best it could possibly afford... the best you could possibly get," Schroeder said.

"The stained glass for example is done in a brand new method invented by the Father of American Stained Glass, John LaFarge, who as this house is being built comes up with a new technique that gives you great pops of color and even on a cloudy day like today, the doors kind of glow. Yeah, it's beautiful," Schroeder added.

This venue will be offering The Other Side of the House - The Servants of Hearthstone in June.

That includes a tour of the elaborate quarters where the Rogers lived in comparison to where servants like Mary Deimer stayed.