News From Terre Haute, Indiana

History

June 10, 2012

HISTORICAL TREASURE: History hangs in the museum

TERRE HAUTE — A few weeks ago, my historic treasure article focused on the many present fireplaces permanently on exhibit at the Vigo County Historical Museum. This week the discussion continues on the “permanent” theme within the Museum, specifically on a very ornate Victorian chandelier that hangs in what is the Pharmacy exhibit.

When visitors are in that room, it is an objective to point out this beautiful remnant of the house’s previous owners. Constructed of brass, the chandelier extends down from a floral motif medallion. The chandelier itself is large and has six globe-covered lights attached to highly ornamented branches. It is unknown if the fixture was installed during the Sage family ownership (1868-1876) or the Robinson’s (1876-1902), but there are clues to the fixture’s date.

Most affluent Victorian homes after about 1865 had gas lighting; for fixtures to withstand heat, brass was used. Also, due to the use of gas, Victorian chandeliers did not hang from chains, but from tubing to connect to the gas source. As electricity became available to homes, gas light fixtures were either converted completely to electric or had a combination of gas/electric. The Museum’s chandelier has all of these elements; besides being constructed of brass, it has the tubing to connect to a gas source as well as evidence of a gas/electric conversion. It is safe to assume the fixture is original to the home due to this evidence, which corresponds to the home’s construction date. In addition, none of the fixtures in the rest of the home match or mimic this chandelier. All of the others were obviously installed later, which is evident by their construction and form. Although we do not know which owner installed this ornate chandelier, we are lucky to have such an artifact on permanent display to share at the Vigo County Historical Museum.

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