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Harmony Museum,
Harmony, PA, 1st Settlement of the Harmonie Society

Old Economy Village, 3rd Settlement of the Harmonie Society

David Lenz House

The David Lenz House is an example of a Harmonist family home. It illustrates construction techniques and Harmonist daily life.

Construction: The house is a typical Harmonist single-family frame dwelling in Indiana. The green-painted addition is not original. Upstairs the floors are original. Windows have been enlarged except those on the west side which are accurate, but not original. Standardized 8-panel windows were used.

In the corner of the large bedroom the construction and insulation is exposed. Walls were insulated with sun-dried bricks. Kiln-hardened bricks were used for exterior construction on brick structures. Sway braces were used in the corners of the buildings. The bricks would not have been exposed but the walls would have been plastered and whitewashed. Slashes on the timber created a rough surface so the plaster would adhere. Ceilings were insulated with "Dutch biscuits" placed between the joists in the ceilings.

Because they took almost everything with them to Economy, most furniture in the house is typical of the period, but not original Harmonist. Harmonists did not make much furniture, but they did make chairs to sell. They brought some furniture with them from Pennsylvania. Much of it was bought from the Shakers with whom they traded extensively.

Entry Hall: Copy of a door lock used by the Harmonists.

Meal bin - used for storing sacks of flour and cornmeal.

Kitchen: Stove manufactured in Pittsburgh, 9-plate, cast iron; stoves were one of the things the Harmonists did not make. They used stoves instead of fireplaces; the stoves could easily be moved from cabins to permanent houses. The stove was used for light cooking; baking was done in outdoor ovens, roasting and large-scale cooking in communal kitchens. The stoves were wood-burning; coal was used after the Harmonists left.

Dry sink: Pine and poplar, ca. 1820 from Pennsylvania; the nearest well was near today's "Poet's House."

Common or Living Room: Harmonist table; the top is one "slice" of a tree; pewter plates; reproductions of Harmonist pottery; designs are not exclusively Harmonist.

Blanket chest: Pine, feather-painted; stocking stretcher.

Sugar chest: Made of poplar to resist insects.

Wool or skein winder: Early 19th c., of oak; a mechanism would pop when a certain amount of wool (a skein) had been wound.

Fireplace: Not used by Harmonists, a later renovation.

Second floor: These rooms were not a particular person's bedroom, but were merely "sleeping chambers."

Small Sleeping Chamber with Shaker single bed.

Large Sleeping Chamber with reproduction single-rope beds: red paint would have been this bright. An original Harmonist bed can be seen in the Workingsmen's Institute Museum.

German Chest 1817, hand-painted. According to Old Economy records, these were the only possession that members of the community were allowed to own. Women often had small decorated sewing boxes for their personal items.

History: The house was built ca. 1819-1822 by the Harmonists and occupied by the David Lenz family. Lenz was a farmer and lawyer, though he is not recorded as having done any legal work for the Society. Lenz came from Germany to Harmony, PA. He and his wife Christina had three sons (David, Christian, and Jonathan) by 1807. Christina died in 1815, therefore only David Lenz and his sons lived in the Lenz House. Lenz's three brothers also moved to New Harmony; Daniel, Israel and Jakob. David probably died just before the Harmonists' departure from Indiana in 1825. His son Jonathan became a trustee of the Economy Society.

During the Owen-Maclure period, John Beal lived here for a short time before building his own house in 1829. In 1828 Thomas Mumford, a carpenter joined the Owen-Maclure community. He married Louisa Maentel and bought the Lenz House. Louisa's father, the painter Jacob Maentel, lived his last years in this house, and some of his paints were found in the attic. The heirs of Thomas Mumford donated the House to the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. In 1958 this organization moved the house to its present location and restored it. It opened to the public the following year. It is now leased, with its contents, to Historic New Harmony.

Communal Bake Oven: This oven is not original Harmonist, but was constructed in 1980. There were several ovens at regular intervals in town; each family had a specific day of the week assigned when they could use the oven. On this day the housewife baked enough bread and pastries to last the week. A fire would be built inside the oven; when it was very hot, the fire and ashes were removed, and the oven cleaned with a rag on a pole. The housewife tested the heat by holding her hand in the oven. The oven held 10 loves of bread. It is used for school programs.

Lenz Garden

The Lenz garden is a partial reconstruction of a Harmonist garden, which would have been larger than this with dirt paths and would have included flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, and herbs. Most plants in the garden are marked with small signs.

Partial inventory of Plants in Lenz Garden:

  • tansy, from the Greek meaning "immortal," used to preserve meats and as an insect repellent
  • monarda or "bee balm"
  • horehound, used in candy and teas
  • sweet woodruff
  • yarrow; used as an astringent
  • borage
  • thyme
  • sage
  • summer savory
  • lavender
  • nasturtium
  • calendula
  • carnation
  • hollyhock
  • phlox
  • peonies
  • flowering quince
  • bleeding heart
  • straw flowers, also called bachelor buttons or cornflowers

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Created: 21 September 1998, JAF
Supported by an Indiana Heritage Research Grant, A Joint Effort of the Indiana Humanities Council and the Indiana Historical Society
Updated: 17 November 2007, BAS
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, University Library
URL: http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/kade/newharmony/lenz.html
Comments: Ruth Reichmann, reichman@indiana.edu

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