Happy Birthday, Craftsman Farms

Gustav Stickley's Craftsman Farms celebrates its 100th birthday: A quick look at life a century ago

All this year, the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is celebrating its 100th birthday.  The Community of Mountain Lakes is also 100 years old this year.

Both Gustav Stickley (Craftsman Farms) and Herbert Hapgood (Mountain Lakes) purchased land to build a dream community.

Although they worked about three miles from each other, there is no record of whether they even knew each other.  But they had the same dream: to build a community.

Today, Stickley’s Craftsman Farms is a museum national historic site that showcases the log house he built on Manor Lane, near Route 10 west of Route 53.  At the time, Stickley had moved his business and family from Syracuse, N.Y. to the Morris Plains acreage to run a working farm to supply his New York restaurant.  His vision was to establish a school for boys that would teach them woodworking and other crafts.

Stickley’s six children, five daughters and a son, were not terribly enthusiastic about moving from a city to a rural area. The girls, however, soon became the center of social life in Morris Plains and gave dances and parties.

Life was very different 100 years ago.  The majority of students finished eighth grade but did not attend high school. Some children did not attend school at all, but were required to work in factories if their families needed the money.  Most people walked, rode horses, bicycled or took the train, since cars were a rarity.  Most roads in this area were dirt roads. 

Electricity came to this area earlier than in many places, due to the efforts of Thomas Edison, who lived and worked in West Orange.

Women could not vote, and they wore long skirts and blouses, even on the beach!  Careers considered appropriate for women included nursing, teaching (if you were not married) and secretarial work. Some women became telephone operators.

Telephones were still unusual and if your family had one, you shared a line with several other households.  “Party lines” did not allow much privacy, as anyone on the line could pick up the receiver and listen.

The radio had just been invented, and television and computers were far in the future, so families amused themselves by reading aloud, playing musical instruments together and playing card and board games.

Girls were expected to marry and raise a family, so much emphasis was placed on learning the skills they would need to keep house: letter-writing, sewing and cooking.  Without many of the labor-saving machines that we depend on now, women spent many hours ironing and making things their families needed.

The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is open in the summer Wednesday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m. with tours at 12:15 and 1:45 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4 pm with tours hourly at 12:15, 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15.   The museum is open only on Saturdays and Sundays during the winter.

Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $4 for children up to age 12.  There is a group rate for groups of eight or more.  The Log House may only be viewed on a tour, but the grounds are open free of charge from dawn to dusk.

The Stickley Museum website is at www.stickleymuseum.org.

Thanks to Vonda Givens, education director at The Stickley Museum, for information used in this article.


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