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Valentine's Day

Notions of love warm hearts at Hower House

2/7/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The Romantic Notions exhibit features items that were exchanged to show love, such as the jewelry, doily and purse handles shown above.
Photos: Kathleen Folkerth
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Messages of love — expressed by both men and women of a century ago — are on display at Hower House this month.

The Master Bedroom includes a Valentine’s Day card from the Hower House collection, as well as a handwritten letter from Milton Hower to Blanche Hower for the 1882 holiday.
Victorian-era Valentines like this are on display at Hower House this month.
Romantic Notions is the theme of the first exhibit this year, which brings back many of the vintage Valentines previously on exhibit but also shows other ways people communicated their feelings.

“We wanted to look at the sweet, practical and sentimental gifts people would receive and give for Valentine’s Day,” said Linda Bussey, assistant director of Hower House.

Bussey said even women of wealth often didn’t have access to much spending money, so they used handcrafted items to make small gifts for friends and loved ones. Many items, like pincushions, were made out of scrap fabric and ribbons, she said.

Some of those items are on display, as well as a first-time display of some antique hand-cranked sewing machines loaned by a local private collector.

The petite machines are from about the mid-1800s to the 1920s, Bussey said.

“The oldest one was used by a dress maker,” she said.

The Valentines on display are set up throughout Hower House. A few are from the Hower family, but many are part of the home’s collection that have been acquired over the years, some dating from possibly the mid-1800s, Bussey said.

Her favorites are the Valentines with pieces that move and ones that have messages that are only seen when folded a certain way.

She added that most of the Valentines were printed and bought, but some were made from kits that allowed crafty types to make their own cards with paper doilies.

Among the new items on display is a Valentine’s Day letter from Milton Hower to Blanche Hower dated 1882. It’s on display in the Master Bedroom. The handwritten letter includes a poem from the husband to his wife. They had been married about 18 months at the time, Bussey said.

The exhibit will remain on display through Feb. 28.

Visitors are welcome Wednesdays through Saturdays. Self-guided tours are available from noon to 3:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens (ages 65 and older), $2 for students and free for children 6 and younger.

On Sweet Saturdays this month, visitors can enjoy gingerbread and hot tea in the home’s Dining Room at the conclusion of their tour, until 4 p.m. Visitors also are welcome to the Cellar Door Store, where Valentine’s Day items are available, including many reproduction Victorian-era valentines.

Hower House was completed in 1871 by John Henry Hower, a leading Akron industrialist who was active in the milling, reaping and cereal industries. Hower and architect Jacob Snyder designed the house in the Second Empire Italianate style. The floor plan, known as the “Akron Sunday School Plan,” features rooms radiating from a large octagonal center hall. The plan was used for churches across the United States.

The 28-room mansion is capped with a mansard roof and soaring tower and is filled with items and furnishings the Hower family collected from around the world.

Hower House is located at 60 Fir Hill. For details, call 330-972-6909 or go to the website www.uakron.edu/howerhse.

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