A walk through time: Henry Law Farm completes catalog of 10,000 antiques (Pt. 1)

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The Law Reed Huss Farm is located beyond the western ends of Tappan Lake and Willis Run Bay, just past the reservoir. And it’s planted perfectly at the intersection of Plum Run and Reed Roads, as pretty as a picture. Bill Huss, the farm proprietor, and other members of the Huss and Reed families hosted an open house in late July to celebrate the completion of a massive, 10,000-item cataloging venture.

The farmhouse has already been distinguished as a historic site. It’s had that designation for quite some time, but the cataloging process was a large-scale and time-consuming undertaking. However, upon arrival, the plaque honoring the farmhouse was one of the first features that drew the eye. Qualifying as a historic site, at least as a historical homestead, requires that the same family hold the property for at least a century. Indeed, the idyllic farmhouse was beautiful, but the cataloging endeavor had turned it into something more — more than both a farm and a historic site. It had become a giant time capsule. 

The Henry Law Farm (another name for the homestead) left the viridescence of the Plum Run holler behind and opened a portal to a time 150 years ago. As it opened up, it exuded the spirit of the late 1800s and early 1900s, which set the stage for the rest of the house. The atmosphere exuded more than just history, though, because it took nearly a year’s worth of time and effort to set up and catalog the thousands of items.

More so, the man behind the process, art historian and cataloger of the Law Reed Huss Farm collection David Kencik, was present for the event. Bill Huss was first to express his gratitude for Kencik’s knowledge and work for the cataloging: “David ended up being a perfect fit.” Kencik, who studied at Ohio University, sparked Huss’s interest after seeing that the university had a Museum Studies program. And one member of the Law family, Loretta Law Duswald, was also an alumna. 

Kencik ultimately ended up leading an impromptu tour as guests began migrating into the house. Much of the Law-Reed-Huss family was there, as well, but they went their own route for family photos and fellowship, so the tour shrunk to two people. As Kencik guided the way, he broke down the interior of the living room. In one corner sat a bookshelf, chock full of various subjects. The bookshelves were seemingly fixtures in nearly every room, however. It shouldn’t be seen as a surprise. Kencik said that the family was well-read, and reading, in general, was very prevalent in the 1800s and 1900s, before radios and TVs entered the scene.

Hanging in another corner was also a certificate. While the plaque outside was bestowed nationally, the certificate in the living room was recognized by Ohio. The certificate confirmed in more words what the front porch plaque symbolized. It honored the Henry Law Farm “for a century or more of continuous family ownership of an Ohio homestead or tract of land. To the dedication and perseverance of the founders and heirs of these lands, we owe the wealth of the Great State of Ohio.” It had been approved and signed by the presidents of The Ohio Historical Society and Board of Trustees to officialize the honor. 

As the living room tour continued, Kencik made mention of some of the furniture. A royal purple coach, in particular, was especially noteworthy since it was Victorian-era inspired and in near-mint condition. The couch was made with woven and dyed horsehair, Kencik informed, and it was still capable of holding people. No one tested the couch’s integrity on that matter, though. 

Next, the tour shifted toward the parlor, off to the side of the living room. And it held many stories. There was a piano with some sheet music, a giant crock with an undisclosed purpose, a desk with its pens and an ink jug, a hope chest, a bed on a brass frame, and another bookshelf. But Kencik noted one particular piece of furniture at the foot of the bed: the game table. The table part was obvious; it looked like a run-of-the-mill hardwood table at first glance, but it held a secret that made it convenient for parties and get-togethers. The top of the table could swivel to reveal a compartment where the host could store game pieces, dice, or playing cards. And keep the hidden compartment motif in the back of your mind; the game table foreshadowed another piece of furniture later in the tour. 

The parlor would be the first of many, but most rooms boasted ornate and flamboyant Victorian-style wallpaper reproductions. Some featured jewel-toned Victorian-era designs and some had symbolic wreaths with red ribbons and moths. Kencik explained that wallpaper was more in vogue during the early 1900s because of a dearth of paint selections. However, advancement in paint technology eventually allowed for new palettes of colors, and consequently, it led to a new wave of interior design. Kencik mentioned that the color options became so variegated in the 1940s, homeowners would straight-up paint over hardwood furniture to keep up with homemaking trends.

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