Celebrations in the Mansion House

Wedding in the Big Hall

Each summer weddings are celebrated in the Oneida Community Mansion House – in the Big Hall or in the Quadrangle.   For those of us who make the Mansion House our home, it is a major event in our day, and often of our late night as well, as reception bands rock the lounge and all of our apartments.

While weddings and receptions don’t make up much of the income that supports the educational mission of the Oneida Community Mansion House, formal weddings, receptions and informal picture taking sessions on the extensive lawns, following a wedding in a nearby church, sustains an enduring local connection with the Mansion House.

Bridal Party at the Mansion House

There is the obvious irony of the modern wedding ceremonies taking place in the home of a religious community that abolished individual marriage in favor of “complex marriage” where all members of the OC were married to each other.

The association with romantic monogamous marriage has long been associated with the products of Oneida Limited, the modern day descendant of the Oneida Community.  The silverware produced by Oneida Ltd. has for a nearly one hundred years been a treasured bridal gift, symbolizing quality and endurance, reflecting the vows of newly weds ~ to honor and cherish each other all their lives.

When I see a bride and groom beginning their lives together in a ceremony performed in the Mansion House, I can’t help but imagine so many other events that the OC celebrated during the years it was active as a Bible Communist Community from 1848-1880.  Many members kept diaries or wrote extensively about these events.  Here are a few examples:

Tirzah Miller 1873

On April 28, 1873, Tirzah Miller wrote in her diary about her future husband and her mother:  “Mr. Herrick, who has been here five years on probation, joined the Community by marrying Mother as its representative.”  While Tirzah does not describe the ceremony, she did say she had practiced the “Wedding March” in preparation for the celebration of James Herrick being accepted as a member of the Community.

Charlotte Leonard

Charlotte Leonard wrote a letter to her mother describing a ceremony that took place in the Big Hall on May 11, 1873, celebrating the pairing of Tirzah Miller and Edward Inslee as a couple chosen by John Humphrey Noyes to conceive a Community child as part of the stirpiculture experiment.  From Charlotte’s description we can almost see the ceremony as a scene in a film.

The Big Hall in the Oneida Community Mansion House is filled to capacity.  Nearly three hundred men, women and children, members of the Community, occupy chairs arranged in rows on the floor and in all the seats in the balcony above.  From the balcony, we see a couple in their late twenties, Tirzah Miller and Edward Inslee, walk from the back of an elevated stage to its edge.  They stop and look out at the audience for a moment and then kneel on the stage floor with their heads bowed and their hands clasped.  The audience rises and begins to sing a Community song, “Blessing on Begetting”, to the tune of the old Christian hymn, “Old Hundredth”.

“Great Giver of the righteous seed, before Thy throne Thy children plead that they are nevermore their own but live to worship Thee alone.”

As the singing continues, we see among the audience, framing the joyous singing faces, the bearded face of John Humphrey Noyes, the sixty-two year old Community leader.  The singing continues as we see the kneeling couple.

“Our Father, on these two who kneel our blessing with Thy blessing seal; and grant in coming joyous days; a noble child may lisp Thy praise.”

After the singing has finished, a dozen couples walk on to the stage and hug the young man and woman, while the audience cheers.  With the couples behind him on stage, John Humphrey Noyes speaks to the audience.

“We seem to have got through the war.  We are getting out of debt; prosperity is rolling in upon us.  We are studying Darwin and the Bible.  The Community is ready, as with one heart, for a faithful trial of rational breeding.  Without immodesty, we ask all who love God and mankind to pray that we may succeed, for our success will surely be the dawn of a better day to the world.”

As Noyes sits down in the audience, Tirzah Miller and Edward Inslee begin to play a duet on piano and horn.

Oneida Community Children

On November 21, 1870, Charlotte Leonard described in her diary a “baby shower” ceremony in the Big Hall.

“First, all the mothers were seated on the stage with their babies, also all the expectant mothers.  Then, the curtain rose and John Lord proceeded to weigh each baby, beginning with the oldest.  Humphrey’s weight was twenty pounds, four ounces.  Richard’s weight was twenty-one pounds, fifteen ounces, Rutherford’s nineteen pounds two ounces, etc.  This was quite an interesting performance, and the babies appeared to enjoy it as well as the audience.  Humphrey was constantly creeping to the edge of the stage and throwing his rattlebox down to the band, which sat first under the edge of the stage.  After the weighing, Richard and Humphrey were undressed and placed on the stage.  The little fellows hardly knew what to make of it, and Humphrey was so frightened we had to take him off the stage. “

Harriet Worden

Harriet Worden recorded a funeral in her journal in January 15, 1869.  It was unusual for the Community to hold a funeral.

“On account of so many hired men who have all summer worked under Mr. Conant, Mr. Woolworth & others informed them of his death.  And at ½ past 10, it was decided to have a regular funeral.  Mr. Bolles preached the sermon.  His extracts from the Berean were very appropriate and the whole subject inspiring.  At the close, he remarked that Mr. Conant was a good brother, and in many respects a great man.  He remarked upon the great resemblance he bears to Mr. Finney, the great Revivalist preacher.  The Resurrection Hymn was sung, and the ceremonies were closed.  Several of the hired men were observed to weep during his discourse.”

Corinna Ackley Noyes

In her book, The Days of My Youth, Corrina Ackley Noyes described a wedding that took place on December 17, 1879, after Complex Marriage had been abandoned and before the Community itself voted itself into a Joint Stock Corporation.

The marriage by contract came first and a sad spectacle it was to a child whose only ideas of marriage were the gorgeous affairs encountered in fairy tales.  The scene was set upon a bare stage, its only furnishings a flat-topped desk and four straight-backed wooden chairs.  When the excited audience was quiet, in from the wings came the contracting parties, two middle-aged men, Mr. Erastus Hamilton and Mr. Otis Kellogg, dressed in dark business suits, and the two women they were to marry, Miss Elizabeth Hutchins and Miss Olive Nash.  The women were wearing dark, short dresses.  Their hair was short and straight and they had apparently made no effort to beautify for the occasion.  That would have been deemed vain and insincere.

The two couples to be married seated themselves in chairs on each side of the desk, then Mr. Towner, a former judge, came in from the anteroom and, standing at the end of the desk facing the assembly, read the contract aloud.  The bridal couples then signed the contract and the deed was done.  There was no kissing of the brides, and if they shook hands with Mr. Towner, I don’t remember it.  Their own desire seemed to be to get out of the public eye as quickly as possible.

Modern Ceremony in the Big Hall

This was the beginning of wedding ceremonies that would continue to be performed in the Oneida Community Mansion House for more than 100 years to our own time.  While there was the wide variety of ceremonies performed in the Mansion House, except for the rare funeral, there were no religious ceremonies held in this religious community.  They worshiped Jesus daily in their thoughts and actions, and did not require formal public proof of their belief and love for God.

This Week in the Oneida Community ~ February 7-13, 1869

Mansion House Big Hall 1875

Harriet Worden’s journal for 1869 is a remarkable window into a critical time in the history of the Oneida Community.  We have been posting daily entries from her journal in 1869 corresponding to the same date in 2011.  You can read these accounts of daily life in the Community by searching the pages section of the blog for Harriet Worden’s Journal ~ Harriet’s Posts 1869.

The past week, February 7-13, 1869, as reported in Harriet’s journal was full of events that give us a sense of the vitality of the Community and reveal decisions that were made in this period that would have a major impact on the viability of the Oneida Community.  Here are few snapshots of this particular week in the winter of 1869, but we urge you to read the entries themselves.

Frank Wayland Smith

On February 7, Harriet reported on what she called a “pleasant entertainment.”  At 7PM every night the members of the Oneida Community would gather in the Big Hall in the Mansion Hall.  They rarely missed this opportunity to gather together as a family.  This evening featured a violin performance by Frank Wayland-Smith of Paganini’s “Carnival of Venice.”  Frank Wayland-Smith is one of our cast of characters in the OC Media project.  The audience loved it so much that he played it again.  Here is what Frank Wayland-Smith played, and you can hear why it was such a favorite.  The Carnival of Venice.

The music was followed by the recitation of an amusing elocution exercise called “The Frenchman and the Rats” performed by James B. Herrick, the former minister and future husband Tirzah Miller after the Break-up of the Community.  Harriet wrote that he entered into it “like a true Frenchman, and amused us all exceedingly.”  Another member, Henry W. Burnham,  sang “Man the Life Boat.”   But it was the next performance, introduced by George Cragin,  that was the hit of the evening.  We won’t spoil it for you except to say that the performance sounded to us like a 19th Century mix of Samuel Beckett, vaudeville, strip tease and Cirque du Soleil.

John Humphrey Noyes

February 8, Harriet Worden recorded a talk by the Community’s leader, John Humphrey Noyes, about the responsibility of America’s manufacturers to encourage the propagation of moral children to counter the threat of being overrun by the Irish.  The skit the night before featuring two Irish workers that were working on the railroad line passing through Community property must have been fresh in the Community’s minds.  And, as a major manufacturer of animal traps in the U.S., Noyes must have thought of the eugenics program that he was just launching as an example to other manufacturers.

February 10, the subject of the nightly meeting was the selective breeding of superior children.  But it was not just the subject of the a lecture, but the selection of the parents was put to a vote of all assembled!

February 11, Harriet reported that happy news that Elizabeth Mallory, one of the Community women that was participating in the eugenics program, was thought to be pregnant.  We know from a letter written by Tirzah Miller later in the month to her uncle, George Washington Noyes, that the father was thought to be Erastus Hamilton, a senior leader of the Community.

Tirzah Miller 1873

Tirzah wrote to her uncle of her great relief.  She said that Erastus Hamilton signified his desire to John Humphrey Noyes several years ago to have a child by me, so there has been a sort of engagement of that kind between us of somewhat long standing.  I had felt so delighted with the idea of holding ourselves completely at the disposal of God and the Community about such matters,  that I took my release from that engagement as a great and unexpected gift from God.

Now I am free for anything Mr. Noyes wants.  He has asked me several times of late “who I am going to have for the father of my child — who I want,”&c.  But I tell him, I don’t expect to choose for myself.” The answer to Noyes’ question would be a constant dilemma not only for Tirzah and Noyes, but for the entire Community in the years ahead.

February 12’s journal entry was full of news of reports by Noyes’ son, Theodore, on doubts he had about Elizabeth Mallory’s pregnancy (he proved correct) and his recent trip to buy new equipment  “for furthering the silk trade” for the Community, as well as a report on a lecture by James Herrick on Darwinism.

Theodore Noyes

Harriet also reported on Noyes’ chronic throat pain, which would be one of the reasons he would withdraw from direct leadership of the Community years later in favor of his son Theodore.  It was a decision that would create a deep divide in the Community and serve as a major cause of the Break-up.

February 13 Harriet reported this eventful week ending on a sunny day that “spoiled the sledding.”

The evening meeting saw some of the children engaged in mutual criticism, including Harriet Worden’s six-year old son, Ormond.

These were just some of the events and personalities recorded by Harriet in her remarkable journal for a week in February 1869.

OC Children 1866

Tirzah Miller Avatar

Tirzah Miller Writing In Her Diary

The image above was created by the artist Emmanuel Bazin from Artifex Animation Studios in Montreal for our NEH proposal.  It is concept art, an early step in creating Computer Generated characters or Avatars to be used in the Oneida Community Digital Media Project.  The sources for this image are an archival photo of Tirzah from the 1860s, and digital images that we took in the preserved bedroom in the Oneida Community Mansion House.

We will use this and other images to create a virtual Mansion House in the 3D immersive world, Second Life.  The Mansion House will be recreated in Second Life based on blueprints, archival photos, written descriptions, and digital photography of the 93,000 sq ft Mansion House that exists today in Oneida, NY.

Characters like Tirzah Miller will be recreated in Second Life based on concept art like the image above.  We will create a website where a visitor will be able to watch the PBS documentary, called Heaven on Earth ~ Love and Conflict in the Oneida Community, with interactive features available, or by watching a trailer that introduces the visitor to the Oneida Community and provokes the viewer to explore the virtual Mansion House on their own, discovering expanded vignettes from the documentary, as well as new scenes and historical information not included in the PBS program.

Tirzah Miller wrote a very intimate diary, which Dr. Robert Fogarty edited and published as Desire and Duty at Oneida.  We will use this diary and numerous letters preserved at the University of Syracuse Library to recreate key scenes in Tirzah’s life in the Community.

We will use the same process to present ten other members of the Oneida Community, offering the visitor to the website an opportunity to learn about the history of the Oneida Community from multiple perspectives.

Images like the one of above will be a starting point to communicate to our team of artists in and out of Second Life what we wish to create in order to bring the characters and their stories of the Oneida Community to life.

And so winds up 1868! Come on New Year!!!

With these words ~  “And so winds up 1868!  Come on New Year!!!” ~ Harriet Worden concluded her 1868 Journal, and we log the final entry for 1868 in Harriet’s Posts ~ 1868 in sync with 2010.  Tomorrow we will post the start of Harriet’s posts for 1869.

It has been an interesting daily ritual, reading Harriet’s entries on the corresponding day in 1868.  For instance, comparing the weather they were having in 1868 to ours in 2010; they had more snow.  We have enjoyed following the daily comings and goings of Community members as they moved from apartment to apartment, job to job, shifting from living in the Mansion House to the satellite Community at Willow Place, a mile a way.  And in the case of poor Uncle Horace (Burt) who wandered off from the Community one day, Harriet reported, “Mr. Burt had a letter from Uncle Horace this evening. It was dated at Schenectady. Said he left without purse or script – without two coats & two pairs of shoes. Whither bound or what his plans are not plain. He is far from being in his right mind.”

Harriet’s accounts of the nightly meetings and entertainments provided a window into the creative, resourceful and often amusing ways and lives of Community members.  They gave lectures on Entomology, Chemistry, Babylon, Egypt, The Greeks and Persians, and the history of Roman times and Constantinople, and a course of lectures for the children on the “Providence of God.”

Harriet Worden with Guitar

They had “scandalous” dances that showed, for some, too much of a “woman’s bottom,” and an amazing  variety of musical performances  and dramatic interpretations, including promenades, skits mimicking “a goodly number of Oneida Community personages,” and even a “practical illustration of Shaker life.”   A mock-funeral for their bag business ended this way ~ making fun of the size of their Oneida Community handbook, and celebrating with a surprise magic act, their new project – Stirpiculture ~ selecting parents to give birth to the next generation of Oneida Community children.  Harriet wrote,

“Then followed a little scene in which Mr. Kelly as an agent offers the “handbook” of two thousand pages to his customers.  He goes out and in comes John Lord & George Allen; each carrying a large leather bag & to all appearances very heavy – and upon setting them down out comes, what do you think – two children, Harold & Temple!  They each exclaimed, “Hurrah for Scientific Propagation!”  and the curtain fell.”

These were just some of the informative and entertaining performances the Community presented at their regular 7PM meetings.

With their habit of keeping records of everything, the last days of the year were devoted to taking inventory.  Harriet reported that John Humphrey Noyes requested on December 8 that the Community “take an inventory of the labor of each individual during past year.”  During the last days of December, Community members took stock of what they had labored at and what they had achieved.  On the final evening meeting of the year, Theodore Noyes read the inventory.  Unfortunately, we do not have that report, but the Oneida Community archives at Syracuse University contain various inventories of their possessions, food stocks, business income and expenses, itemized costs for sustaining each member at Oneida, Wallingford, and Willow Place, and a record of each Community member, listing their name, age, height, weight, birth place and date,  the age and date when they joined, and how much property they brought into the Community.  The Oneida Community considered themselves to be living under scientific principles, and to do so they needed data.

And so Vicki and I are taking an inventory of our labor for the past year.  We began the year in Montreal, living under the shadow of the great Basilica, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal; me working on completing the animated documentary on the explorations of Samuel de Champlain – Dead Reckoning ~ Champlain in America, and Vicki keeping her American intellectual property clients happy from Canada.  In January, we decided to investigate living in the Mansion House and producing a media project on the Oneida Community.  In early April, we moved back to Cumberland Head on Lake Champlain as I began work on the Cirque du Soleil PBS special, Flowers in the Desert. Within weeks of returning to the US, we visited the Mansion House and fell in love with our future home, Tontine 255.  Since the end of June, we have been living in the Mansion House, in an apartment furnished with furniture from throughout the great house and dishes and silverware from Oneida Ltd.  And except for three months when I was up to my eye balls with work producing Flowers, we have been consumed with the lives of the three hundred or so religious pioneers in the 19th Century.  We have made many wonderful new 21st Century friends here among the people who work for or live in the Mansion House.  Vicki has been exploring the cooking and baking philosophy of the Oneida Community described so well by Harriet Skinner. And early next year, she will be publishing a new version of this wonderful glimpse into the food produced and consumed in the Oneida Community.

Oneida Community Web Doc

January 12th is the deadline for our proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities for support for the Oneida Community Media Project.  We didn’t think we would make this deadline due to the amount of time taken up with the Cirque project, but it looks like we will make the deadline!  I have nearly completed the proposal requesting support for an innovative interactive media project that will include: a documentary broadcast on public television; the same film streamed on the internet with interactive features available to allow a viewer to access additional historical information, context, analysis and commentary by our scholars; and an interactive web documentary that will allow the viewer to discover multiple narratives, historical information, tour the Mansion House in a virtual environment, trace the history of the Community through an interactive timeline and map, view Mansion House exhibits online, and discuss ideas with our panel of scholars.

And so winds up 2010!  Come on New Year!!!

Merry Christmas From The Mansion House

Winter South Tower

Fighting Irish and Women’s Bottoms

Entertainment in the Hall

Last week in her 1868 journal, Harriet Worden wrote of events that caused problems for the Community with the outside world and among its members, the nature of which would be repeated in one form or another until the break-up in 1880.

The first “crisis” began with a dance.

On Sunday night, November 13, the Community held a “soiree” in which Tirzah Miller and Frank Wayland-Smith and others played and sang concluding with a waltz.  Harriet wrote, “It all went off well indeed, unless the display of petticoats in the waltz might be considered a drawback.”  Nothing more was said about the petticoats for several days.  But at an evening meeting on November 17, Erastus Hamilton announced that “the spirit about the “dancer’s petticoats” was unpleasant to him.”  Hamilton mostly led the evening meetings.

Erastus Hamilton

John Humphrey Noyes was more likely to meet with members of the Community in the Upper Sitting Room, where he could speak softly without straining his voice.  He suffered from throat ailments and deafness, which didn’t allow him to lead the evening meetings.  However, he did weigh in on the spirit of the petticoats.  Hamilton read remarks made by Noyes.

John Humphrey Noyes

John Humphrey Noyes

“There might be some unpleasant remarks about the way the girls’ skirts flew up in the dance. But I don’t think there was the least harm in it. I didn’t care about it at all. Men like to see up there, and it is right they should some time; do let them. It was a pleasant sight. I liked it very much. There is no need of being at all squeamish about it. It wasn’t near as bad as what is going on the stage in the world all the time. I like to see women’s bottoms once in a while; it is one of the legitimate sights.”

The assembled group laughed and that was the end of the petticoat crisis.  Many years later, the Community would be torn apart by conflicting attitudes about Noyes’ role in the sexual system and the justification for the system itself, but in 1868, such tensions could be relieved by the words of Noyes and laughter.

The real “crisis” of the week was much more serious.

On the next night’s meeting, November 18, an incident was discussed that occurred earlier in the evening.  Two of the Community young men including James Vail were involved in a fight with a drunken Irish railroad worker.   Vail would later father a child with Harriet Worden, and be arrested and convicted for attempting to burn down the Mansion House and successfully destroying a horse barn, killing several horses trapped inside.  The arson was said be caused by a dispute between Vail and Community at the time of the break-up over a team of horses he claimed belonged to him and not the Community.

James Vail

The Irish workers were camped near by the Mansion House as they built the line of tracks that would run very near the rear of the Tontine.  Including a stop-over at the Mansion House would allow thousands of 19th Century tourists to visit the Community in the 1870s.

In the evening meeting, the fight was described as being provoked by the Irish worker, who said he could  “beat a Community man.”  The two young men defended themselves from the worker’s attack and struck him.  But it was the young men who were criticized for their behavior and asked to consider “what a dangerous thing it would be to bring on a collision between us (the Community) & the Irish.”  They were also asked to think about ” their disadvantages and our great advantages.”  At previous meetings, the Community had spoken about the terrible working conditions that the Irish workers endured digging through the swamp-like terrain to lay tracks by the Mansion House.

Albert Kinsley

Over the next two days, Mr. Albert Kinsley (from the Community) spoke with the foreman of the railroad crew and later with the Irish worker involved in the fight, and apologized for the young men’s actions.  The Irish worker said, “He was “tight” and was great deal to blame and seemed glad enough to call it all straight.”  Further troubles with the Irish would be avoided.

Excursions

Throughout the Community’s history, the good will of neighbors would be relied upon for their survival when they would come under attack for its sexual practices, whether from a campaign in the New York City press by Charles Guiteau, former member and future assassin of President Garfield, who charged that the Community’s sexual system was deforming young girls, or from Professor John Mears from nearby Hamilton College, who led a movement among the local clergy to prosecute Noyes for adultery, which would provoke Noyes to flee to Canada in 1879.  But during 1868, the Community had no intention of coming into conflict with anyone in their neighborhood, even workers who were there temporarily.

The Art of Mush

Graham Mush. ~ And here you will say, Give flour and water and any body can make Graham mush.  No, even Graham mush has its points.  It may be light or soggy, smooth or lumpy, cooked or raw.  If you want it light, smooth and well done, check out the recipe section!


Evening Entertainment

Bag Bee

In today’s blog from Harriet Worden’s 1868 Journal, (Harriet’s Posts ~ 1868)  she describes an evening entertainment that marked the end of the bag business at the Oneida Community.  Erastus Hamilton, who often led the Evening Meetings rather than John Humphrey Noyes due to Noyes’ health issues, announced:

“We are a business sort of people, paying but little attention to Sunday and funerals.  In fact, the solemn institution of funerals has been very much neglected among us; but lately the attention of the Community has been turned to this subject, with its usual enterprise and thoroughness.”

Mr. Hamilton then announced that the remainder of the evening would be devoted to staging a funeral marking the end of the bag business at the Oneida Community, and he expected that the audience would get “themselves into a suitable frame of mind; and that a free and conspicuous use will be made of pocket handkerchiefs.”

Erastus Hamilton

What Harriet Worden describes is both amusing and historically significant; using song and theater (a mock funeral is staged) to celebrate the end of a business venture that was once very profitable for the Community, and was an activity that transformed the act of making bags to fill business orders into a communal experience that, when the business was retired, provoked tears and memories ~

Of bees, of love tales read,

Of bright-eyed maidens short & tall

Who lined and stitched and bled!

The funeral ends on a hilarious note and is not to be missed in reading this remarkable entry by Harriet Worden.  Her entry captures the inventiveness  of the members of the Oneida Community as they created entertainment that was both educational and fun, and provides a glimpse of stern-looking characters like Erastus Hamilton that is more humorous and nuanced than is revealed in most Oneida Community publications .

Food & Cooking

Be sure to check out the new categories under Oneida Cuisine: OC Menus, OC Recipes  and Oneida Community Cooking (excepts from the 1873 book by Harriet Skinner).

Time Traveling

The Tontine and Connecting Lounge

We have lived in the Tontine section of the 93,000 square foot Oneida Community Mansion House now for two weeks.  It seems like much longer.  Perhaps the false sense of time is caused by all that we have had to do to make our apartment our home, or the heat wave that we endured all of last week.  But I am certain that time feels very relative because we are living and working within three time periods.

Our apartment was built during the Civil War and completed in 1864.  It was named after a Boston hotel, The Tontine.  The name Tontine comes from an Italian banker named, Lorenzo de Tonti.  He devised a scheme for raising capital with the amount of an investor’s dividends  determined by the number of surviving investors.  A great incentive to hope for the demise of one’s fellow investors, or even help them along into the next world.  Agatha Christie territory.

The Oneida Community built the Tontine to meet their work and dining needs.  The basement of the Tontine was used as the kitchen, laundry room and the area where the dying of silk would take place.  They made silk thread for sale. There is still a laundry room in the basement.

The first floor was the communal dinning room, serving meals for up to 300 members of the Community.  After the break-up in 1881, the dinning room was used to serve meals to all who lived in the Mansion House ~ former Community members and their families, Oneida Limited employees, and people who rented or lodged in the Mansion House.  Today, there is a very nice Spanish restaurant and lounge, Zabroso (www.oneidacommunity.org/dining.html) that serves tapas, paella and other Spanish and Latin American cuisine, and also has a Happy Hour.  What would  the Community Members have thought of Happy Hour in their dining room?

Tontine 2nd Floor 1864-1874

Our apartment, #255, takes almost half of the second floor of the Tontine.  This floor was a work area from 1864-1874.  Drying clothes and silk was done here.  Starting in 1868, the Community newspaper, The Circular, was printed on this floor.  There was also a small classroom.  In 1874, when the Community’s population was reaching close to 300, more bedrooms were needed.  Also, some of the work performed in the Tontine was moved to buildings outside the Mansion House.  So the second floor of the Tontine became sleeping rooms.

Tontine 2nd Floor 1874-1880

Since all meals were taken downstairs, there was no need for a kitchen in these rooms.  Where we now live, there were six sleeping rooms and one larger sitting room (R 271) that looked out on to the Quadrangle or courtyard that is now surrounded by all the buildings of the Mansion House.

After the transformation of the Oneida Community into the Oneida Community Limited (later Oneida Ltd.), changes were made to the Mansion House, including to the Tontine to accommodate the new living arrangements of individual families, rather than one large communal family.  Our apartment was created out of the 1874 layout of six bedrooms and one sitting room into what it is today – a two bedroom apartment or a 4 1/2 (as we learned to say in Montreal).

Tontine 2nd Floor 1920 to 2010

What was once three bedrooms is now a kitchen/dining room.  The back bedroom (R277) is now our work area (returning to its roots).  The bathroom was once a bedroom.  Our bedroom and living room are in the same place, in the front facing the Quadrangle, but the bedroom was expanded three feet at the expense of the sitting room.

So we are living in a building that was built and occupied in the 19th Century.  But our apartment is the result of transforming some, but not all, of the 19th Century bedrooms during the early 20th Century.  And we enjoy the conveniences of the 21st Century – Internet and Cable TV, etc.  – that allows us to work and live here in the Tontine.

The Tontine

Our bedroom and living rooms are on the second floor containing  the four windows on the left.

Quadrangle

This is our view of the Quadrangle and the Tulip tree that dominates it.