Gibson Farmhouse Tour


Sears, Roebuck & Company was founded in 1893, in Chicago. They had catalogs where people could mail order almost anything imaginable such as clothing, books, tools, farm equipment, and even houses! In 1924, the first retail store had opened up and by 1929, there were 300 retail stores across the country.

The Gibson Farmhouse is a replica of one of the many houses you could buy from Sears, Roebuck & Co. All of the pieces and materials you would need to build the house would come on railcars. A house this size probably needed about 3 full railcars! Oftentimes, neighbors would come together and host building parties to build the houses.

The Gibson Farmhouse, a replica of the Hillrose, was built in 2000 and was made possible through donations by Dale and Carol Sue Gibson. The Hillrose would have cost the buyer a total of $3,141. It included 9 rooms. The first floor included a library, living room, dining room, bedroom, kitchen, washroom, and a pantry. The first floor would have also had a shed connected to the back but because the replica needed to include an elevator for accessibility reasons, some alterations in the floorplan were made. The second floor included 4 bedrooms and a bathroom. The Hillrose would have had a basement that had concrete floors and 7-foot tall ceilings.

Explore the Gibson Farmhouse and see how farm families would have lived in the 1920s!


Entertainment Space

The entertainment space which includes the library or parlor room, living room, and dining room were laid out with an open concept. Between each of the rooms were doors that could be used to close off areas and create a more private room. There are French doors connecting the library and the living room and pocket doors connecting the living and dining room. Family time was important and since some had large families, a lot of space was needed.

Even though families didn’t have televisions or video games to keep them entertained they had several other things! They had radios, record players, stereoscope, and pianos. Children had toys and games they could play with just like today.



The 1920s was a huge time for radio. At this time, several radio shows and stations were coming to the airwaves which brought new genres of entertainment for families. Many of these stations were aired from Chicago. The types of radio shows would later be the televisions genres we watch today. They included radio plays, soap operas, children shows, news and other genres. It was also at this time when advertising started on the radio. Soap operas were called soaps because during these dramas, commercials for soaps and detergents were often aired.

Amos ‘n’ Andy was a popular show. It was a radio sitcom that followed and their lives in Harlem’s historic black community. Another popular radio show was a thriller and suspense drama called Mystery House which aired in 1929. America’s first country station, aired in 1924. Sports play-by-play stations were also popular to tune into so families could hear about their favorite teams. National Radio Home-Makers Club was a popular radio station for housewives as it gave nutritional information and advice on menus and beauty.



Besides the radio, phonographs were also used to listen to music. Two of these instruments can be found in the library. The Victrola is a stand up record player. It is called a Victrola because it was of the Victor brand. Another, more compact version of a record player was also common. It was called the Edison Phonograph. Instead of being a stand up model, this model was small enough to sit on a tabletop. Most phonographs took the large, flat, records. The Edison Phonograph takes cylinders instead. The songs were engraved on the cylinders similarly to records but were made much more compact.


Player Piano

Also located in the library is the player piano. Player pianos were common because even if you couldn’t read music, you could play this one. This player piano is an “Easy to Play” Gulbransen Registering Piano from 1927. A user would press the pedals at the base of the piano. By pressing the pedals, vacuum pressure would be created in the inner workings of the piano. The paper rolls had holes for each tone for the music. When the holes in the paper roll pass over the metal bar that also has holes, air is sucked inside. This air opens a valve that activates a hammer that hits the string creating the tone. The paper rolls often had lyrics to the song printed on the roll. Families could gather around the piano and sing along to the songs that were being played.




Located on the writing desk in the living room a stereoscope can be found. Stereoscopes are made with two lenses and use cards with two separate images. Each image is slightly different to recreate what each of your eyes may see. When you look at the card through the stereoscope, you should be able to see a 3 dimensional image. Many photographers were able to make their own stereoscope cards so you might find images representing a family or a couple on their wedding day. Other images were places that people would travel to so collecting images from a National Park or Niagara Falls were common keepsakes or images of places people wanted to visit. 



The bedroom was used much like a bedroom is used today. People would sleep here and keep their personal items in their room such as their clothes and vanities. The Sears catalogs made it possible for families to order any kind of clothing they might need such as dresses, underwear, swimsuits, hats, and school clothes. Many women still sewed their own clothing to save money with a sewing machine like the one in here.


Sewing Machine

In this bedroom, you can find a sewing machine in the corner. This sewing machine is a Singer sewing machine from 1922. This sewing machine is powered by a pedal on the bottom of the stand. The user would push the pedal repetitively to get the needle going. When the sewing machine wasn’t being used, it could be stored in the central compartment and the additional counter space could be flipped on top of it to create a flat working area. The desk also included small drawers so bobbins, needles, and other sewing supplies could be stored.



Kitchens were where the housewife spent much of her time. The kitchen was a place to cook all the meals. Stoves were used like today and ingredients were stored in a special cabinet There was a sink as well. There might even have been a telephone so you could talk to your neighbors!


Woodburning Stove

Wood burning stoves were common because many families didn’t have access to natural gas or electricity. The wood burning stove also helped provide heat in the house during the colder seasons. The stove here is a Copper Clad brand that was made in St. Louis by the Malleable Range Co. Wood is put in on the left hand side and heats up the stove top and the oven that can be used to cook with. To the right of the stove is a water basin that could be used to heat water. The stove top has points of access to the fire so that the heat could be moved to a certain spot or adjusted. Ashes from the fire would collect in a bin that could be accessed from the front for easy disposal. The front of the stove has a heat gauge that estimates the temperature of the oven to make cooking a bit easier but it is not exact. 


Hoosier Cabinet

Hoosier cabinets were a baker’s dream. They provided all the storage one would need for all the baking pans, spices, and other ingredients. Often times, Hoosier cabinets would have a special flour container to store all the flour needed to make breads and other baked goods. The storage containers usually had a built in sifter at the dispenser so the user could sift the flour right into the measuring cup. Hoosier cabinets were made in New Castle, Indiana by the Hoosier Manufacturing Co. There are many brands that make Hoosier-style cabinets, such as the one in the tenant house.



Telephones people had in the 1920s are much different than telephones today. The telephone would be connected to the telephone wire that linked with the operator’s center as well as other family’s telephones. While using the phone, you would be connected with another party and be able to talk to one another. People had to be careful about what they were talking about because anyone that was connected to that telephone wire could listen in on the conversation.



This pantry has a lot of space for storage. All of the kitchen gadgets you might need to create your meal could be found in this area. This would also have enough space to hold the ice box which held a block of ice to keep food cold similar to today’s refrigerator. The storage space could hold a variety of tools that might have been needed.



The washroom provided extra space so that the housewife would have room to do laundry or iron clothes. There were several methods of washing clothes. Many would use the washboard to get the clothes all clean. After rinsing the clothes, they would have been hung on the line to dry or on a drying rack like the one on the porch. Those families that had electricity might have even had an electric washer that did the wash for them!



Our washroom has one of the first electric washers that were able to be purchased. The Laun-Dry-Ette allowed for the wife to be more efficient with her laundry. All she had to do was put clothes in the tub along with and water and soap, and turn it on! The central tub held the clothes and when submerged in the water the agitators on top would agitate and clean the clothes. After the clothes were cleaned, the woman could push the pedal and lift the tub out of the water. Because the tub has holes in it, water can escape making it so the woman wouldn’t have to put her hand into the scalding water. From here, she could take the clothes to finish drying on the clothesline outside.