Created By: Old Cowtown Museum
The Story and A Half House located in the Residential Area of Old Cowtown Museum is representative of a typical lower to middle class home of the late 19th century.
The Story-and-a-Half House is an exhibit represents family life in the 1870's. The house is representative of a lower-middle income family in early Wichita after the arrival of the railroad in 1872. It was a “starter house” for a small family that had aspirations of moving up. It was an ‘everymans house” that had a succession of many residents, and therefore represents a generic family home, one of many that provided the backbone of the growing Wichita economy.
Visiting school groups may participate in domestic activities such as laundry and butter churning, as well as children's games in the small side yard.
The house is built on a rectangular I-Plan with two rooms arranged one behind the other and a shed kitchen directly behind them. The upper floor is called a half-story because its ceiling follows the slope of the roof line. For this reason, the residence is known at the Museum as the Story-and-a-Half House. The reference is apparent when compared with the full two-story Murdock House next door. This unassuming vernacular house was common throughout the 19th century. The simple style was typical for moderate-income people of the late Victorian era.
The Story-and-a-Half House was moved to the Museum in 1961. The house was donated by Leo McKenzie, whose family founded the Wichita Carriage Works in 1885. The original location of the structure was at the 900 block of Fairview.
The first room through the front door is the parlor. It represents the public image of the family to all guests. The nicest furnishings occupied the room, and it was kept clean and tidy and able to recieve guests at any time. However, because this type of home had only one parlor, the family would have used it more frequently than a formal parlor in a larger home. Although company would have been entertained in the parlor, the family may have gathered here in the evenings as well. Despite more frequent use, the room was regarded as the best room in the house, and its contents were treated with special care.
The Middle Room
The Middle Room would have been used for a number of family activities. Although meals would have been served here, the table could be folded down to make room for sewing and other home activities. The children’s toys and schoolbooks in the lower shelves of the china cabinet indicate that the children may have spent much of their free time here. While some of the work of the household may have been based from the room; it would be the place where more casual visiting and activities. In the southeast comer of the room are two doors one leading to the stairway to the two small bedrooms, One for the children and one for the parents. In keeping with the name of the house, story and half, there is only full head room in the center of the room which are not accessible to the public, but are currently used, for storage. The family probably used the back door most frequently.
The small kitchen demonstrates the difficult working conditions of a nineteenth century home. Space was limited, and extreme weather conditions could make the kitchen a very difficult place to work. The wood-burning stove was used for cooking. On particularly hot days, cooking would have been done early in the morning, or cold meals would be served as much as possible. In cold weather, the stove was a source of heat. There is no icebox in the home. Food, which needed to be kept cool, would be kept in a cellar, down a well, or on the back porch during the winter months. Although the kitchen is small, it is well stocked with equipment and utensils. A pitcher and basin by the back door served as a "kitchen sink" for those entering the house with dirty hands and faces.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Old Cowtown Museum Tour