Student Curator Corner
Jack's Clothing Project: The Value of Perspective
By: Saanika Acharya - Student Volunteer
During the tour of the summer kitchen directly outside of the Wentz’s lodging, I was made aware of how the Wentz family had enslaved individuals along with indentured servants who worked at the farm. It is believed that they lived in the loft just above the hearth of the kitchen based on clues and traces of historical evidence uncovered but historians are still in the process of determining their exact residential area at the house. I was surprised yet intrigued when told about Jack, who was an enslaved man living at the farm. What truly piqued my interest was the fact that his appearance had been speculated based off of a newspaper advertisement of him put up after he supposedly ran away. There is still an air of doubt looming around Peter Wentz’s true image, which is still unknown since there is no substantial evidence of any of his portraits surviving. How was it that historians know more of Jack than the owner himself? By reading a "runaway" advertisement placed in the newspaper.
It is truly remarkable how enslaved individuals, who were considered inconsequential at the time, tell us the most detail about someone who lived in the house. This particular instance serves to emphasize how no person should be regarded as insignificant in history. No one is trivial when concerning history, for it is the untold, often forgotten stories that help us uncover the truth in the end.
The Not-So-Secret Garden
By: Saanika Acharyla - Student Volunteer
The Wentz household did not hold back on adopting the more traditional ways of life. Perhaps the most exciting of features- the outdoor garden- was one I could not stop wanting to explore. The family was relatively farm wealthy and so it does not surprise one to find a garden adjoined to the summer kitchen however, the origin of the notion was of most peculiarity. The Wentz family integrated their Germanic heritage into the sheer architecture of the house however, it was not the only remnant of their German roots. The garden-beside-home idea originally belonged to the Germans. In Germany, plots of land beside residences were allocated to impoverished German families as a means of bare sustenance; the practice dating back all the way to the 1800s. They were known as “Armengärten” which translates to “gardens for the poor."
By 1826, said gardens were found across 19 cities. Albeit the Wentz garden was not established for the same purpose, it was interesting how they nevertheless placed it near their house instead of anywhere else on their extensive farmland. We can only assume it was a small reminder of home. The garden is not simply a reminiscent piece of the Wentz family; it is still tended to and can be toured in order to comprehend what life entailed back when the Wentz family inhabited the land. After all, it is not every day one gets the opportunity to pick vegetables fresh from a garden beside the summer kitchen to cook and relish a (truly) homemade meal.