Pulsifer House a Glimpse Into the Past

In 1839, Edward Pulsifer believed the village of Hennepin would become a center of trade. Moving his family from Ohio, he relocated to Hennepin and bought a property there.

In 1844, Pulsifer’s house was built. Though he had a business dealing in dry goods, hardware and groceries, Pulsifer’s vision of Hennepin becoming the hub of the trade world fell short.

He vacated Hennepin, moving his family to Chicago in 1863, staying there for the rest of his life. The Pulsifer House was inhabited by tenants until 1902, when Edward deeded it to his children. They sold it in 1904.

“There were several local families that actually lived in this house,” Sidney Whitaker, president of Putnam County Historical Society, said.

Eventually the house fell into disrepair and was donated to the village of Hennepin in the late 1970s.

The historical society entered into a 99-year lease with the village and began the arduous process of fixing up the house. The house was also listed on National Registry of Historic Places in 1979.

The historical society worked hard on the house, restoring it to its prior condition and filling it with period-appropriate furniture and pieces — some of which were bought, while others were donated by local families.

“We had no furniture that was original to the house,” Whitaker said. “We don’t have any photographs of it when it was in the family.”

The Pulsifer House, located off of Route 26 on Old Highway 26, now serves as the headquarters for the historical society and is open for tours 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

The tours offer a glimpse into what life would have been like for the Pulsifers as they moved into their newly-constructed home.

“It’s basically like a Georgian townhouse,” Whitaker said. “The foundation underneath the brick is limestone. The bricks were probably kiln-dried in the yard.”

Metal stars on the outside of the building are part of the original construction and provide additional structural support.

The tour of the home begins in the dining room. Whitaker points out the woodwork, which is fancy for that time period, and the fireplace mantle.

The fireplace mantles in various rooms throughout the house are replicas.

“There never were fireplaces,” Whitaker said. “As was common in those days, you didn’t have a fireplace in the house.”

The mantles were likely put up to enhance the appearance of the room and to show off Pulsifer’s financial position and standing in the community.

“Appearance was a big thing,” Whitaker said.

Also on the main floor are the ladies’ parlor and the men’s parlor.

“They separated after the meals,” Whitaker said.

The ladies’ parlor features an example of a hair wreath, a craft popular in the mid to late 1800’s. Women often made and displayed the hair wreaths, which were made out of the hair of family members and close friends.

“You can imagine the amount of time that went into that,” Whitaker said about the hair wreath.

A fine example of wax flowers also is displayed in the ladies’ parlor.

Finding quality examples of wax flowers is difficult as many have been destroyed over time.

“The heat is a real problem for them,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said the ladies’ parlor is his favorite room in the house.

“There’s more interesting things in a ladies’ parlor than in a gentlemen’s parlor,” he said.

Edward Pulsifer’s business ledgers have been rebound and are on display in the house. The ledgers show the names of people in the community, what they bought and what prices they paid for the goods.

The society is indexing the names for genealogical purposes, according to Whitaker.

The main stairway leads to the bedrooms that would have belonged to the Pulsifer family. At the top of the stairs sits a fainting couch.

“Fainting was a big thing with the corsets they wore,” Whitaker said.

As would have been customary for the time period in which the house was built, the master bedroom has bedpans under the bed — although an upstairs bathroom eventually was added to the house.

“These two rooms we’re assuming were the children’s bedrooms,” Whitaker said, pointing out two rooms which are accessible by entering the master bedroom. One of the rooms is now used as a display room for the historical society.

The upstairs also has rooms which would have belonged to the servants, as well as a staircase used solely by the servants.

Billie Jessen of Hennepin was one of the local residents who lived in the Pulsifer House before it was donated to the village and restored.

“We were the last family to live there,” Jessen said. “It would have been in the ‘60’s.”

Living in an historic home, especially one that at the time was in need of repairs, wasn’t always fun.

Jessen recalled that having only one bathroom — which was located upstairs — was an inconvenience.

Unwelcome guests posed another problem.

“We would fight rats in the fall,” she said. “They’d come in the back area.”

But despite never having air conditioning while they lived there, the house was comfortable during the heat of the summer.

“The shade of the trees kept the house cool,” Jessen said.

She went through Pulsifer House a few years after it was restored by the historical society. Jessen approved of the improvements.

“That was nice,” she said.

Jessen’s daughter, Cheri Keegan of Peru, has fond memories of the time she spent there.

“It was such a big, old house,” she said. “It was just unique because it was so historic.”

Keegan went on a tour of the Pulsifer House earlier this month and was flooded with reminders of her past.

“I walked through yesterday and I had tears from memories,” she said. “I loved seeing it restored.”

Cheri remembers sneaking upstairs along with her two siblings to play with items, like parasols, that had been left in the attic.

“We used to slide down the banisters of the stairway,” she said. “We’d play out in the carriage house. It was just a neat old house to live in.”

She recalled that the leaky roofs meant some extra vigilance during rain storms.

“Every time it rained we’d have to get pots and pans out,” she said.

Keegan said she has a deep appreciation and love for history, old homes and antiques.

“It’s all because of how I was raised,” she said.

Source: News Tribune