Visit one of Vineland’s “living museums” during the Heritage House Tour on June 4
They inherited a house, but much more.
When Barb and George Mitges took over ownership of Chestnut Hall after the death of George’s uncle Barclay Holms, they pledged to honor the building’s history, which dates back to 1830. Between the house itself, a house with classic Pennsylvania German-style brickwork, a rare intact beehive kiln in the back, and Holms’ fame in the antique world, Barb and George knew they had to maintain the character of the property.
“We love it, we live in a living museum,” Barb said. “I know Barclay is very happy with what we have done with the house.”
The house will be one of five houses, and six sites in total, on display when the Heritage Houses Tour returns on Saturday, June 4.
Barb and George moved into the house in 2006, after Holms died a year earlier. He had owned the house since the 1970s. The Mitges said there was a lot of work to do, but every step was taken with the historic character of the house in mind. The old staircase remains in place, with steps worn down by hundreds of pairs of feet going up and down over the years.
The original doors and door handles remain in place. The living room has been restored and although the fireplace has been closed off for efficiency reasons, it still plays a prominent role in the room. Meanwhile, portraits of the first owners are on display in the living room.
Barb and George have added a kitchen area since moving in. Holms had used a small space in the back corner of the house for their kitchen needs, and since they wanted Chestnut Hall to be an entertainment space, the couple felt the need for the addition. The kitchen even has a bit of history from George’s childhood: a 1960s Frigidaire Flair stove and oven.
Chestnut Hall was featured on a previous tour. However, visitors to this tour can expect a few twists and turns this year. First of all, the floor will this time be open to visitors.
In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to admire the rare beehive cooking oven which is still in a shed behind the house. It provided heat, a bread oven, and a place to do laundry in one giant contraption. The three separate areas culminate in a single fireplace.
The design was not too uncommon at the time; however, Barb said that since most of these ovens were exposed to the elements, few survived. Chestnut Hall’s kiln shows signs of age, but perhaps makes it better from a visitation perspective, as some of the missing brickwork exposes the intricate chimney work.
“Because the oven was indoors, it stayed intact,” Barb said.
Parts of the house showcase the area’s Mennonite heritage, including the Dawdy Haus, which today would be known as the master suite. It was where Grandma and Grandpa would stay while the younger generations grew up.
The visit takes place on June 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Chestnut Hall will be one of five houses featured, along with a swing-beam barn. Tickets are $25 each and include the tour, a free glass of wine at a local winery, and treats like an apple fritter at Chestnut Hall.
The organizers require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and require that masks be worn during the visit.
Tickets can be purchased at the Grimsby Museum, the Heritage Gift Shop in Jordan, or Action Print in Beamsville. More information or tickets can also be found by calling 905-562-4242 or emailing [email protected] Electronic transfer options are available.
Money raised will support the Lincoln Archives.