Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Tour of the White House

Kyler and I have been in Bloomington for less than a week (without school, internet, cable, or roommates), and our entertainment options are running low. We've rented four Redbox movies since Tuesday and nearly conquered the entire Wii SuperMario game. To say that we're bored is an understatement. I had to take matters into my own hands and look for an alternate source of entertainment.
Kyler looking goofy by the welcome sign

Not many people know that I'm a history buff. I'm not one to sit around and spend all hours of the day studying history, but I love learning about how others lived before our time. So Saturday, I told Kyler we were going to visit the Wylie House. I didn't know much about the Wylie family, but I knew there was a Wylie Hall on campus and figured there must be a connection. Little did we know that Andrew Wylie was the first president of Indiana University.

A mural of the old campus adorns the foyer walls
 Right off the foyer was a formal entertaining room or the parlor. Every last detail in the room was evidence that it was public space, down to the woodwork around the windows. You'll have to take my word for it though, because I forgot to take a picture in this room. However, right off the parlor was the master bedroom. This bedroom also had formal woodworking, which leads historians to believe that because of the big family or big social gatherings that the large doors connecting the two rooms would be left open to expand the entertainment area. (Thank goodness times have changed. When we have social gatherings, we CLOSE all the bedroom doors.)
Master bedroom/additional entertainment area
Then came my favorite room in the house: the kitchen. I love kitchens for two reasons: 1. Good food comes from the kitchen and 2. The kitchen is the room that seems to evolve the most as time goes on. Bedrooms haven't changed much since the 1800s, but kitchens seem to change every decade. Thankfully, I have a kitchen that is many decades past the Wylies' kitchen. I can't imagine cooking over coals or lugging in food from the ice house for twelve, yes the Wylies had twelve, children.
Kitchen Stove
Six years ago a Wylie relative died and bequest the china set below to the museum. This set included 500 pieces, and according to our guide, all 500 pieces were probably used at once during family gatherings. Twelve children that probably each had twelve children of their own for however many living get the idea.
This next pictures are of the girls' bedroom and bathroom. This space was shared by five Wylie girls.
Five girls' bedroom

Five girls' bathroom (also in the aforementioned bedroom)
 The oldest Wylie child had just moved out when the Wylie house was completed and ready for the family to move in, and two of their boys only lived in the house for a couple of years. The Wylie family must've really wanted their chidren and grandchildren to come back and visit because there was a room specifically for guests. Guests in those days were definitely different from guests that visit me. They would stay for extended periods of time, like...not just the weekends. To me, it seems like they practically moved in with the family. They stayed for months, but they at least they had their own living quarters, or rather their own room (as in ONE room (as in a typical family had MANY children that stayed in ONE room!))
Guest Room
Also upstairs was a boys' bedroom, a small boarding room for students at the university, and what Kyler calls (much to my dismay) a woman's work room. This room featured equipment for spinning wool, sewing, and lots of other textile work that I don't really understand.

It was in this room that our tour guide asked us if we knew what room we were standing directly over. Without hesitation, I said the master bedroom, and that was correct. The tour guide seemed shocked that I knew this and informed me that I was "very spacially aware." I'm not sure what the means, but apparently not many people get the answer right. Then she went on to make a point that the work room was usually located over the parents' bedroom so that when people were working, the parents would not be awakened. Neither Kyler nor I understood her logic, but we didn't ask any questions.
Woman's Work Room
And with that our tour was concluded. There were a few other interesting parts of the house I wanted to share with you though. 

Our tour guide showed us an old black and white photo of the old Wylie woman sitting in a rocker. Behind her was a bookshelf, and hanging from the bookshelf was a tiny little potted plant. Upon entering the foyer, there was huge potted plant. I'd say it was at least two feet in diameter and was still overflowing. As it turns out, the plant in the foyer is the same one in the photo, and it is at least 100 years old!

Mrs. Wylie's Potted Plant
Both the upstairs and downstairs have wonderful, spacious porches, and the front porch is surrounded by beautiful flower gardens. As we were standing on the upstairs porch, I looked down at the flower gardens and immediately thought of Kyler's dad Kim. Kim loves to grow anything, anywhere. His technique is not to have everything perfectly positioned but to let things look beautiful in their own natural state. I love his technique, and I loved the gardens at Wylie house. For those who know Kim, you can't tell me that you wouldn't be surprised if he had planted this garden himself:
Front garden, view from above
I had a great time with great company at the Wylie house. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon getting to know more about Bloomington and IU's history. I love visiting these old homes, and for a little while I wish that I had been able to live during that era. By the end of the tour, though, I was hot and hungry. It was nice to be able to jump into the car, turn on the AC, and grab some lunch on the way home. And then I realize that I'm really happy that I live in the time that we do, and tonight I will thank God for the modern conveniences that I take for granted every day.
Kyler leaving the Wylie House Museum


  1. Very cool place to visit! Thank goodness you will have modern kitchen conveniences to feed the 12grandchildren you are planning to give me! :) Love ya!

  2. I have always wanted to visit. I've ran past there dozens of times...glad you got to experience it! One other place you need to check out come autumn is Deam's Wilderness and go to the Fire Tower. It's not really historic, but it is a must-do in the Bloomington area. Thanks for the post/pics.

  3. Terry: I thought you wanted grandchildren total. We'll try to let everyone else have their share.

    Anique and Kamaron: We'll definitely have to add those places to the IU Bucket List.

  4. AND you thought it was bad sharing a room with one sister :) I too love visiting old houses and seeing how they used to do things without all the modern conveniences. We probably get that from Grandma Faye. Love, Mom

  5. Old man Wylie was a busy man - with 12 kids! Looks like a very fun place to visit - I love that kind of stuff...

    You definitely need to check out the courthouse in the downtown square, too. Very beautiful ceiling and lots of history...