After the Harmonists
Community House (Dormitory) Number 2This is one of the four Harmonist Community Buildings. The exhibits deal with the transition period from the Harmonist to Owen period. Education in New Harmony during the Harmonist, Owen-Maclure and Post-Communal periods; printing and newspapers; Harmonis t communal dwelling.
Construction: The dormitory is constructed of heavy timber framing, as are all Harmonist buildings, and nogged with the lightly baked, porous bricks which were used as insulation; the bricks also served as a form of fire wall between the rooms. Th e timbers were roughed up on the inside so that the plaster would adhere better. The woodwork and trip were painted with a buttermilk-based egg-shell blue paint. "Dutch biscuits" were used between the floors and ceilings for insulation. There are 16 firep laces built into the dormitory; 15 were used with stoves for heating the rooms and one was used for cooking. This dormitory is a full story bigger that the other three; its large mansard roof added a third floor and an attic.
History: Number Two functioned as a community building for both the Harmonist and Owen-Maclure experiments. It was one of four dormitories built by the Harmonists to house members of the community who had not established families; it was constructe d ca. 1822. The Harmonists referred to each dormitory as Bruder Haus. Number Two accommodated both men and women of the community.
The first floor was used as general living quarters for 40 to 60 residents. The cooking, dining, and communal rooms were on the first floor as well. In the hot summer months the cooking for the household was probably done in the building directly north of the building which was used as a communal kitchen. During the winter most of the cooking would probably have been done in the dormitory kitchen.
In 1825 the dormitory was purchased along with the rest of the Harmonist Estate by Robert Owen. During the Owen-Maclure period the building was used as a school functioning as the center of William Maclure's educational experiments with Pestalozzian teach ing methods. Classes were held in several other buildings as well.
Between 1831 and 1940 the building housed a variety of businesses including a hotel, a tavern, a residence and rooming house, industrial shops, printing shops, a cigar factory, a hardware store run by the Fretageot family, and a tea room. In 1940 Number T wo was purchased from Mary Emily Fauntleroy, who owned it since 1929, by the State of Indiana to be maintained as a historic site.
First Floor Exhibits: Harmonist Wagon - built by the Harmonists in Indiana and used to help move them to Economy, PA in 1825. The frame and flooring of the wagon are oak, the spokes are of hickory and the axles of gumwood. The wagon was returned to Indiana from PA for I ndiana's Centennial Celebration in 1914; it is currently on loan from the Workingmen's Institute.
Sun Dial - originally located on the Rapp-Maclure mansion across from Dormitory Number Two. It was retrieved from the Rapp-Maclure Mansion when the house burned in 1844; it was placed on the south wall of the dormitory where a replica now hangs. Th e sun dial displayed on the first floor is the original; it has been repainted. It must be hang on a wall that faces the south for it to tell the correct time.
Slater Print Shop - Much of the equipment displayed in this room was used to publish The New Harmony Adviser (1858-1861), edited by Charles Slater, and The New Harmony Register (1867-1932), edited by Charles Slater and subsequently by his son, Harry "Nick" Slater. The Advertiser and the Register until 1875 were published on the second floor of the dormitory. In 1875 the printing shop was moved to the third floor. After Nick Slater closed the shop in 1932 he t urned the keys over to Mary Emily Fauntleroy who had purchased the Dormitory; subsequently the State of Indiana took ownership.
In the shop is a Washington Press, a six-column, two-page press. Used by Nick Slater, it is said the press was assembled from two smaller presses which had been used for many years and on which the Western Atlas and the Gleaner had been printed.
The two imposing stones in the shop are the tombstones inscribed with the names of Thomas Say and of Margaret and William Maclure. The marble stones were removed from the graves when the bodies were later re-interred (not William Maclure's body; he died i n Mexico). The tombstones were then placed in Number 2 for safekeeping; the stones, placed face down, were used by the Slaters to lay out pages of type.
The ink used in the printing was made of oil, lamp black and a percent of varnish which aided in the drying process. The type was cleaned in a washing trough filled with a solution of lye water and soft water. Later gasoline or kerosene were used for clea ning. the stove belonged to Charles Slater and dates to 1853.
Note: Earlier printing in New Harmony took place in other buildings.
Second Floor Exhibits: Furniture: The Victorian furniture here was given by donors from throughout Indiana to be used in the Tavern (Number Three), which was planned to be restored by the New Harmony Memorial Commission. The furniture was stored in Number Two when the Ta vern was torn down in 1961. Much of the furniture is from the 1870 to 1890 period and is not connected to either the Harmonist or Owen-Maclure periods.
Harmonist women's bedrooms are furnished simply with reproduction Harmonist furniture made from originals at Old Economy Village. The curtains and blankets are also reproductions of 1820s textiles.
Golden Troupe Exhibit: A collection of trunks, costumes, pictures, backdrop and personal items belonging to members of the Golden Family and the Golden Troupe (see Thrall's Opera House).
Third Floor Exhibits: Center Room: The plaster has been removed here in order to expose the construction details used in this building: Dutch biscuits, heavy timber framework, Harmonist-made bricks. The floor is original.
Under the attic stairs is a prayer written in chalk by a Harmonist before leaving for Pennsylvania in 1825. Written in German, it translates to read: "On the 24th of May, 1824, we have departed. Lord with thy great help and goodness, in body and soul prot ect us." (L. Scheel)
History: Thrall's Opera House was built by the Harmonists as the fourth communal building to house members of the community who had not established families. Completed in 1824, it was the last communal building erected by the Harmonists before leaving for Pennsylvania. This two story building of frame and brick construction, 70' x 44', was similar to Dormitory Number Two although somewhat smaller and without a mansard roof. As with Number two, the ground floor was probably used as living quarters and the second story for bedrooms. It is thought that there were 16 rooms, for during the Owen-Maclure period there is an account stating that there were 16 families in 16 rooms. Little building and few alterations were done in this period; therefore the original rooms and divisions were probably not altered. The rooms were heated by stoves.
When the Harmonists left and sold the town to Owen and Maclure, Dormitory Number Four became a community building where lectures, dances, and other social activities were held. In the post-communal period it served at various times as a dwelling house, school, store, warehouse, and a Sunday school. In 1859 the building was purchased and remodeled by the Dramatic Association; it was renamed Union Hall, as a compromise between its uses as a theater and ballroom. The Dramatic Association Thespian Society, the Golden family, and touring theatrical companies all played here during the 1860s through 1890s. The building was also used for balls, parties, concerts and other social gatherings.
In 1888 Eugene S. Thrall, who had been part owner of the building since 1867, became sole owner and began renovations. He added a new facade that reached to the side walk, arches over the windows and doors, cherry paneling around the interior room and balcony, and the curve to the balcony. Union Hall was renamed Thrall's Opera House; traveling and local troupes performed on its stage until 1910, by which time it was only used for community functions such as school graduations. From 1911 to 1913 the building was used as a nickelodeon movie house.
In 1914 Ed Garret purchased the building for a Conoco gas station and garage. He painted the exterior white and installed double garage doors in the front entrance, allowing cars to drive in.
By 1964 Harmonie Associates, a group of local citizens interested in preserving the cultural history of the town, had persuaded the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to buy the building and maintain it as one of the state historical properties. Renovation was begun in 1964 and completed in 1968. In July of 1969 the theatrical activity which had flourished for nearly a century in New Harmony was again revived. The New Harmony Theater Company of the University of Evansville began a series of summer theater productions which lasted until 1972. Since the restorations, the building has been used to house meetings, workshops, lectures, musical programs and balls which continue to this day. In 1992-94, the University of Southern Indiana held a summer theater program here.
The balcony is the part of the building closest to its original condition. Though the curve and cherry paneling were added in 1888, the floor is original to the Harmonist period.
Doors: The side doors on the first floor were once windows. The doors provided cross-ventilation for the audience and now serve as the necessary fire exits.
Hardware: The door hinges and knobs are similar to the original hardware once in the Opera House; they are from a home in Indianapolis, ca. 1880.
Light fixtures: Replicas of the type of kerosene lamps once used here.
Seating: Seating arrangements have never been permanent because the building has always been a multi-purpose structure.
Paneling: The paneling around the interior is of pine, stained like cherry to match in color the 1888 paneling which remains today only around the balcony.
Wheel Hoist: Suspended in the ceiling rafters behind the stage, it may have been used by the Harmonists to lift heavy timbers used for floor and ceiling. The wheel is six feet in diameter.
Return to Top of Page