site Musee de Venoge
to open in Switzerland County
to display, discuss
historical clothing patterns
Helen E. McKinney
VEVAY, Ind. (June 2011) Saundra Altman has
traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast, from North to South
and back again to find everyday garments for her historical pattern
making business. All of the research she puts into the historical notes
included with her patterns shows her dedication to detail.
Fancy clothing is easy to find, said Altman of period garments.
What people wore to work in is not so easy to find.
For almost 32 years, Altman has operated Past Patterns, a historical
pattern company dedicated to accuracy. She manufactures patterns dating
from the Federal era to World War II (1789-1940s).
Altman, 68, said she is not a seamstress. She only creates clothing
patterns and makes the clothing she wears. As a costume historian, she
has spent decades looking at clothing and studying the history
of common folk.
de Venoge is a newly
restored 30-acre farmstead
dating to 1805-1815.
The Dayton, Ohio, resident said of her patterns, Most
people read the historical notes in the patterns than would read a book
that is read once and put on the shelf.
Altman will be one of a select group of artisans demonstrating their
talents and trades at the free Open House at Musee de Venoge from 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 11, and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, June,
12. Visitors will witness tombstone carving, spinning, hearth cooking,
basket weaving, theorem painting, pottery, hooked rugs being made and
enjoy the music of fiddle maker and player Michael Thompson.
Lily Richter will be displaying her theorems, paintings on velvet rendered
with the use of stencils. I saw them a few years ago on a family
trip to Colonial Williamsburg and fell in love with the look,
she said. Richter then decided to lean how to make my own for
Theorems began in this country around 1810, said Richter. They were
taught in many female academies. For that reason, she sticks to the
1810-1840 time period when demonstrating this decorative artform.
The Musee de Venoge is a restored homestead situated on 30-acres on
State Route 129 and Indian Creek in Switzerland County. It was built
circa 1805-1815. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
this is the first time the home will be open to the public.
We want to invite people to see a historic structure, said
Donna Weaver, founder and director of Musee de Venoge. The property
was purchased in 1996 when Weaver and her now late husband, Tom, formed
a nonprofit group. It is now designated as a 501(c)(3) entity.
Weaver, a Northern Kentucky native, knew the site must be preserved
when she learned in 1994 that the Vevay Fire Department planned to burn
it down for a training exercise. She was president of the local historical
society at the time and was asked to look at the structure before it
Digging into the walls and expecting to find logs, what she found instead
was a hand-made brick inlay between two vertical standing post
and beams, an architectural style totally new to her. She surmised
that the house must be connected to the French-Swiss heritage of the
county, as there were many French-Swiss who settled the area.
She spent three years researching building types, traveling to southern
Louisiana and nearby Vincennes. Weaver learned the building was a rare
architectural type typical to not only early French-Swiss settlements
in Switzerland County but also the lower Mississippi Valley.
The structure is unique because of its architectural style,
she said. Its French connection to Switzerland County led Weaver to
believe that it was constructed by Frenchmen heading north upon finding
themselves out of work after Thomas Jefferson negotiated the 1803 Louisiana
In 1805, Swissman Louis Gex Oboussier bought 319 acres, part of which
is known today as Venoge. Weaver said she has acquired letters from
Gex Oboussier written in French that when translated, helps us
try to better understand how we got from there to here. Through
interpretation of the letters, she can better understand the history
of the house and things that occurred there over the years.
This will be the first time to have an open house with a restored
building at Venoge, said Weaver. Weve held workshops
on historical trades in the past, but thats all.
Weaver will join in the demonstrations by fashioning miniatures. She
worked for five and a half years for the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia,
designing and sculpting both circulating and commemorative medals and
My wax portraits helped me get the job as well as an ability to
draw, said Weaver. I sculpted the current Jefferson nickel
For the last four years, she has been part of the Artistic Infusion
Program at the U.S. Mint and produces designs for specific coin programs.
For more information, call (812) 427-9404
or visit: www.Venoge.org.
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