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Step back into past at Schaeffler House

Staff writer

As Hillsboro celebrates its 125th anniversary, the William F. Schaeffler House will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The house, now a museum, re-opens Saturday with an antique car show 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., an 1870-1937 fashion show 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., and a fried-chicken picnic dinner 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

  

William F. and Ida Schaeffler built the house 22 years after opening a dry goods and food store at Main Street and Grand Avenue in 1887. Ida Schaeffler also operated a millinery shop next door.

Schaeffler Mercantile Co. eventually became the largest department store in Marion County.

As evidence of their business success, the Schaefflers constructed an elegant house at 312 E. Grand Ave. in 1909. They lived there until their deaths. Their son, Bob, continued to live in the house until 1980.

The house and its contents were donated to the city in 1981. City officials contacted Stan Harder, curator of Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, to sort furniture and go through many items stored in the basement. He helped prepare the house as a museum.

Harder, who has lived in Hillsboro for six years, now serves as director of Hillsboro Museums. He conducts tours of the house and has an in-depth knowledge of the time in which the house was built.

He is a stickler for accuracy in describing the house.

“The purpose of museums is to teach,” he said. “Everything has to be explained correctly.”

Some items in the house were donated, but most are original.

The Schaefflers had connections with manufacturers and ordered many decorative items, including intricate latticework, stained glass, and chandeliers, that would not ordinarily have been available in Hillsboro at the time.

The house features double parlors, a formal dining room, and a turn-of-the-century kitchen, all remaining as the original occupants left them.

The second story contains a master bedroom and several smaller rooms, including one used by Ida to design hats for her millinery shop.

Windows are dressed with original curtains. Bathrooms are upstairs and down. The china and silverware are original.

The house has wrap-around porches on the front and back and two bay windows.

Behind the house was a fruit orchard. Several young trees have sprung from the roots of original trees.

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. A group called Friends of the Museum helps Harder support the museum and give tours.

According to member Anita Boese, the roof needs to be replaced with slate, and the group is attempting to riase money for the expensive project.

During growing season, a farmer’s market is offered every Thursday on the grounds, and tours are available 5 to 7 p.m. at a reduced price.

From 5 to 7 p.m. July 3, the museum will celebrate Independence Day with political speeches and a presentation of the Gettysburg Address by someone impersonating Abraham Lincoln. Children will dress up in historical costumes and groups will perform live music.

Last modified June 25, 2009

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