Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oneida Community Mansion House

Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate, we drove to the Oneida Community Mansion house and took a tour.  We learned a lot about the Oneida Community, which was a Social Experiment in community living which was founded in 1848 and disbanded in 1880.

The mansion was built in 1862, with several wings being added as needed.  Above is the main entry to the main building.  Next is a corner view of the original house, Bill standing in front.
This is a view of the top of one of the subsequent wings on the left, the roof over the main entrance on the right.

And this is the tower on the right of the original house which housed John Humphries Noyes bedroom, the founder of the Community  (we weren't allowed to see it--not sure why).

This is a small portion of the library.  Alcoves like this lined three walls in this very large room and were all full of books of the period on just about any subject you could imagine.  The Community also subscribed to numerous newspapers and magazines--they wanted their members to be well educated.

The women in the Community were skilled in arts and crafts.  These are some crocheted dolls on display outside the library.  Interesting.

This is a gathering room in one of the later additions to the house.  The fireplace/mantel was really beautiful.  The amazing thing about this beautiful building is how well built it is.  This room is one of the newest additions, but it was the only one in which the floor squeaked!

This is the post office located in the other end of the above room, and the little cubby holes on the right were where the members of the community received their mail.  A lot of the house has been rented out as apartments and I believe they also receive their mail in the same holes.

This picture is a braided silk landscape created by the artist Jessica Kinsley, a member of the Community.  Her works are hung throughout the house, and a whole room is dedicated to her works.
This is a tray with an illuminated "B" and you can see scenes in the circles formed by the B.

I was amazed that we were allowed to take pictures of these beautiful works.  There is a drawer in a table that contains one of her works and the differences in the depth of color was astounding.  The details in the pictures hung on the walls were quite difficult to ascertain because of the fading.
The pictures were created by drawing a rough draft on butcher paper.  The silk was cut into long, even strips, then braided just like cotton is braided for a rug.  Then the silk was pinned on a board creating the pattern.  Waxed paper was placed over the pattern, then ironed onto the silk which transferred the wax, and the paper was removed.  Ms. Kinsley gave all her works of art away, but after her passing, many of them were returned to the house to be displayed there.

We learned that John Humphrey Noyes was a ministerial student at Yale.  While there, he associated with some people who called themselves Perfectionists, who believed they could become (surprise!) perfect in this life.  He wrote a letter to the head of the school, declaring himself to be free of sin.  His ministerial certificate was promptly withdrawn.  Soon, he and the Perfectionists formed the Oneida Community.  They were not a religion, per se.  They did not hold religious services on Sunday, but studied the Bible frequently and lived as John Humphrey Noyes interpreted the scriptures.  They taught that people could live without sin and be happy.  They all lived together and shared everything.  Everything.  They did not marry.  This was based on the scripture in Matthew 22:30.  There were several committees that decided important things regarding personal relationships, duties, assignments, and their vocations.  Men lived in one area, women in another and children in another.  If the committee approved, a man and woman could become partners for a period of time decided by the committee, usually long enough that if a child was produced, the father could be ascertained. The progeny were called "Stirpicults."  The mother kept the baby until it was weaned, at which time the baby was moved into the children's area.  They decreed that older men should introduce young women to the joys of sex, and older women (past child bearing age) would do the same for young men.  When the committee decided it was time to produce another baby (only 2-3 children were born per year), they would decide which man and which woman would produce the healthiest, smartest child and lo, it was done.  We were shown an "interview room" which was used by this couple.  In the room was a chair, chest and bed.  The bed was between 18"-24" wide.  There were several interview rooms located adjacent to one of the many sitting rooms.  Bill and I both wondered how the joy was experienced in these barren rooms...

The community grew their own food, were vegetarians, and ran some businesses.  The Oneida silverware or stainless flatware that you are familiar with came from this Community.  They also manufactured animal traps (does that seem strange for a group of vegetarians?) that were the best produced in this country.  The mouse traps we are familiar with that have the "Victor" logo were produced by the Oneida Community.  Even though the market for animal traps has dropped significantly since the days of mountain men, they still produce quality traps.

In the late 1870's, John Humphrey Noyes (the guide always referred to him by all three names) was being persecuted by the law--they were going to arrest him for statutory rape, so he fled to Canada.  The young people in the Community were unhappy with the marital practices, and the general public wasn't too happy about them either.  So the Community got together and decided to disband as a commune.  They founded a stock company and all the members received stock in the company.  They then went away from the mansion and build homes of their own in the surrounding area.  The mansion was converted into a hotel with a restaurant and was run as part of the stock company.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

After the exhausting prelude (see "'Twas the week before Christmas") we were happy to have Christmas arrive.  Even though we didn't have shall children in the apartment, we still had to get up early--6:00 is still early.  We had a beautiful tree, as you can see, thanks to a previous missionary couple that bought a beautiful pre-lit tree and left it for subsequent missionaries.  We decorated it the day after Thanksgiving and enjoyed it all month.  We enjoyed it so much that we just may have to buy one when we get off our mission.
We opened our presents and had a fun time.  Bill got a tie organizer that lights up and twirls around so you can see all the ties in a jiffy!  It holds about 45 ties and he only brought about 25, so I think there may be some tie shopping happening in the next few months...
He also got a new watch.  The timer on his old one was getting stubborn, so he got one with an easy setting timer as well as a heart monitor!  Now he will shop for an exercise video that he can use in our apartment without a lot of equipment.  Won't that be fun?  He tried it out on his daily exercise routine and discovered that he could get his rate up into the 90s without a lot of effort, as well as drop back into the 60s in pretty short order.  Healthy man!

And here you see my lovely presents--a beautiful, sparkling ring with matching earrings!  I really love them.  Bill said if anyone asked if the diamond were real, I could answer, "Absolutely!"

After we opened our presents (including the pistacio nuts, Ghiradelli squares assortment, trail mix, etc.) we had breakfast and went to church.  We had to be there by 9:30 so Bill could get the bulletin typed up and I could get one last practice in before church started.  Church was presented by everyone--the Relief Society sisters sang, "Silent Night" while one of the sisters read Luke, chapter 2, a missionary read the story of Silent Night, the Primary children sang, "Away in a Manger," the Priesthood brethren sang "O Come, All Ye Faithful," several stories and poems were shared by others, and Elder and Sister Karlinsey sang, "Once in Royal David's City," unaccompanied since Sister Karlinsey is the only member of the branch who can play the piano/organ (we could have sung to the CD accompaniment, but the pitch was too high for either of us).

After church we joined the Bullochs for Christmas dinner, along with Elder Neal and Elder Menlove who are the elders assigned to the Oneida Branch.  Sister Bulloch was a little disappointed when we told her we had to leave by 2:00--she was looking forward to hearing some more of Bill's stories.  She had really enjoyed the ones he told after Thanksgiving dinner.

Skype was ringing as soon as we opened the computer after walking in the door.  Bill visited with Laura Dawn, Brenda and Thomas for over an hour.  In the meantime, I visited with Rachel and Scott and their girls via cell phone since they don't have Skype.  Then I visited with Cindy until my cell phone died (I forgot to plug it in the night before).  When Bill and his kids finished with their conference call, I was able to Skype with Mary, Sarah and Laura as well as Adrienne and Amy, and see their Christmas fun.  I think we finished up about 7:00.  What a great time we had!

And here we are, enjoying the rest of the day after we got home from Church.  Actually, we took the pictures Friday evening, the 30th, because we forgot to take any on Christmas day.  But six days doesn't make that much difference, does it?  On Saturday we took the tree down and discovered that artificial trees shed needles, too!  The living room feels a little bare with the tree gone, but we'll be happy to set it up again next year.