A Room of Mystery

//A Room of Mystery

A Room of Mystery

The plasterers, painters, electrician, and carpenter are still hard at work at the Rapp Houses.  While we’re waiting for more changes to report about, let’s talk about a room of mystery in the Rapp Houses.Great House, First Floor Plan

There are so many rooms in the Rapp Houses whose 19th century function is not known.  Of course what a room was used for may have changed over time too.  There is one room (marked in yellow above) in the George Rapp House that is a little bit different than all of the others in several ways.  This room has most recently been interpreted as George Rapp’s bedroom.  (We don’t know exactly which room of the house was his bedroom.)  We know that the look of this room changed in the 1870s or 1880s when an addition was built onto the west side of what we call the Steward’s wing – the north wing of the George Rapp House.  At this time a hallway was built onto the east side of the room to provide access from the addition to the main hallway.  Any other changes to the room are currently unknown.  Let’s look at some of the differences in this room that are not seen elsewhere in the house.

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One obvious difference is the bars on the windows. To allow for the bars, the windows in this room are set in closer to the room than the other windows of the house, making a narrower window sill.

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The room does not have a chair rail. All of the other rooms have a chair rail except for the George Rapp kitchen and pantry – two utilitarian spaces.

116 door

The doors for all of the nicer rooms in the house have plinth blocks (the block at the bottom of the door frame molding) that look like this.

115 door to 114

The door to the next room on the east side has plinth blocks like those in utilitarian spaces.

115 door to 116

The door to the hall has no plinth blocks. No other room in the house is missing plinth blocks.

116 hall 48

The door to the hallway, as seen from the hallway, has smaller blocks on the top corners than any other door in the house. The room side of the door frame has no blocks at all.  Because this door is so different, was it even here originally?

This room of mystery seems to have been used for utilitarian purposes, purposes which needed to be kept hidden and locked up due to the bars on the windows.  We are going to be interpreting it as George Rapp’s office when the house re-opens for tours.  This is a viable purpose for the room.  But perhaps after George Rapp died in 1847, the room was changed to keep things locked up.

There was a clue found in the research files at Old Economy Village recently.  About 1892 there was a man by the name of Cyrus Reed Teed who knew about the Harmony Society and their belief that Christ was coming in their lifetime, and they were the chosen people to help build the new Jerusalem.  Supposedly, Teed wanted to arrive at Economy wearing “George Rapp’s sacred robe” which he knew to be locked up in a special room in the Rapp House with other items the Society wanted to keep.  He thought that if he showed up wearing it, the Harmonists would fall down to worship him, believing he was the Second Coming, and give him all of their money.  It is a very interesting story, which you can read about in the early 1890s newspaper article Teed Shows A Robe (exact date and newspaper source unknown).

Could this room of mystery have been the place where the Harmonists kept their treasured items?  We may never know, but it definitely makes you wonder…

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By | 2014-03-14T17:00:14-05:00 March 14th, 2014|Rapp Houses Restoration|0 Comments

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