I first visited the historic Niels Petersen House in Tempe, Arizona, in the early 1990s. When I stepped into the kitchen, I was hit with a wave of déjà vu. I realized it reminded me of the farmhouse my Uncle Hughie grew up in. (Click the smaller images to enlarge and to view captions.)
A true old-fashioned farmhouse sink.
An early refrigerator.
I recently visited again. In December, the house is decorated for Christmas.
Beautiful hand-made Danish ornaments.
The red ornaments with the white cross resemble the flag of Denmark.
Christmas trees grace multiple rooms of the house.
The pedestal and legs of this table are made from the woody remains of dead cactus.
Niels Petersen, the original owner of the house, was born on October 21, 1845, in Denmark. He served in the English Merchant Marines from 1863-1870, allowing him to travel the world until he decided to immigrate to the United States.
Old-fashioned dial telephone.
In 1871, Petersen arrived in the Salt River Valley of central Arizona, where he staked a homestead claim and begin farming. Four years later, in 1878, Petersen became a United States citizen and subsequently filed a homestead entry, the next step in permanently establishing himself in the valley. The final action in this process was the filing of a homestead proof, providing evidence that improvements to the land had been made by the claimant, which Petersen filed on May 12, 1883. By the time of his final homestead filing, Petersen had built two small adobe houses on the property and maintained 140 acres in cultivation.
A collection of Danish Christmas plates line the dining room.
Petersen acquired more property surrounding his homestead claim. His ranch grew to more than 1,000 acres and Petersen emerged as one of the area’s leading producers of cattle and grain.
By the 1890s, Petersen emerged as one of the Salt River Valley’s wealthiest and most revered citizens. In 1892, he made the decision to construct a new two-story brick home, in the Queen Anne Victorian style, hired Architect James Creighton to design it. Petersen’s house was widely considered one of the most elegant homes in the region.
Closeup of hand-sewn log cabin quilt.
Stove to warm the bedroom.
Petersen married twice. His first wife died in childbirth and their son died in infancy. His second wife did not bear any children.
Oops. This room has been taken over by Danish nisser and some other little dwarfs and gnomes.
Chamberpot, to save the occupant from having to visit the outhouse in the middle of the night.
After Petersen’s death, the property passed to a distant relative, Rev. Edward Decker. He modified the house somewhat, including adding its one and only bathroom.
The bathroom was added.
A phonograph, and a stereoscope viewer.
Only one more family ever lived in the house. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. The city of Tempe acquired it in 1979 and restored it.
One more bedroom.
Handmade quilt circa 1930s.
Another heating stove.
Yes, that’s me taking the picture.
The Niels Petersen House will be open to the public this weekend, December 15 and 16, 2018, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. For more information, click here.
Photographs by ARHuelsenbeck.
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In 1774, an Englishwoman named Ann Lee traveled to America with eight followers to found the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly referred to as Shakers due to the dancing that characterized their worship.
Adopting celibacy, the Shakers traded traditional family life and personal ownership to live as brothers and sisters in a community where everyone was considered equal and all property was owned communally. Believing that “Mother” Ann Lee was a manifestation of the returned Christ, her followers strove to live a life of perfection in service to others. Their movement grew to six thousand adherents by 1840, all converts. Today, their number has dwindled to a mere handful of members at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in Maine.
The dwelling house at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Main. Photo by TimPierce.
Dormitory-style bedroom in the Centre Family Dwelling of Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Photo by Tom Allen.
The Shakers trusted that God was evident in the excellence of their craftsmanship. The furniture they made by hand was world-renowned. Becoming prosperous by supplying quality goods, they shared generously with the less fortunate. They even invented such useful items as clothespins and the circular saw, and shared their designs.
Shaker man crafting a round box.
Simplicity and utility were the hallmarks of Shaker life, and also of their designs. Probably the quintessential item of Shaker furniture was the ladderback chair. They were made with horizontal slats on the back, which facilitated hanging them from a peg rail to free floor space when they weren’t in use. (Click on smaller photos to enlarge and see credits.)
Photo by Carl Wykoff.
Photo by Richard Taylor.
Today, interior designers still employ the simple lines of Shaker style cabinetry. Copies of Shaker furniture abound, though actual examples of pieces handmade by Shaker artisans are highly sought and prized.
Photo by Doug Coldwell.
Photo by Doug Coldwell.
Photo by Doug Coldwell.
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