A glimpse into the past
WC Women’s Club to debut vintage clothing display
The historic home of a Webster City benefactor will soon offer visitors a glimpse into the past with a vintage clothing display.
The Jane Young House, owned by the City of Webster City, is maintained by the Webster City Women’s Club and the Jane Young House Foundation.
A few members of the Webster City Women’s Club found racks of vintage and antique clothing stashed in the upstairs rooms of the house. More than 200 hats from many eras were stacked in another room.
“Nothing was being done for the clothing items. They were just hanging out on racks,” said JoAnn Robb, a committee member.
“We thought it would be neat to be able to show them to the public,” Robb said. “We wanted the exhibit to be both fun to see and historical. And we might include a few historical facts for each time period.”
The collection features fancy dress clothing to simple daytime dresses, petticoats and bloomers, mens suits and tuxedos, hats and shoes. There are even elaborate accessories such as hair combs, jewelry, gloves and other items.
The club members started to mull the idea of creating a display of the unique and often elegant garments. They sought advice from people who knew how to care for antique textiles.
The women traveled to Iowa State University and met with experts at the Textile and Clothing Museum.
“They gave us a lot of background on how to care for some of these fragile garments,” said Loween Getter, another committee member, adding that they picked up several reference books that further explained the care of the clothing.
They started collecting wooden hangers which they covered in padding encased with a muslin stockinette to gently hold the delicate fabrics in place for storage.
The clothing items, which Getter and Robb said likely were donated by members or the families of members, span nearly a 100 years of fashion history. The oldest pieces, according to labels found on the garments, date to the late 1880s, while some of the newer ensembles were popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
Getter said the ISU experts told them controlling the temperature and humidity would be critical if the dream of creating a vintage display was to become a reality.
“There was no heat or air conditioning on the upper floor of the Jane Young, so we put mini splits in the upstairs rooms,” according to Getter. Mini-splits are heating and cooling systems that allow temperatures to be controlled in individual rooms or spaces.
“Before the mini-splits could be installed, we had to have the electrical system completely updated,” Getter said.
“Now we have new outlets and switches, and all of the lights are rewired,” said committee member Darlene Dingman. New shades were also installed in the windows upstairs to keep the harsh sunlight off of the delicate fabrics which at the same time, allow natural light into the rooms.
After the heating and air conditioning was installed, it was decided that the upstairs floors needed to be refinished.
“We don’t think the floors had been touched since the house was built,” Getter said.
Grant money from Hotel/Motel Tax Board and Enhance Hamilton County Foundation provided funds to do the work on the house, according to Getter.
In the past few weeks, the women have been busy assembling the displays in the upstairs rooms.
“We have really had fun last week putting the exhibits together,” Getter said. “The committee has decided on names for the rooms that will have displays.”
The first set of displays include rooms with the themes of “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” “In Harmony with the Past,” “Gentleman’s Trunk Show,” “Our Vintage Treasures” and “Kendall’s Study.”
Kendall’s Study features an antique desk and typewriter, while the trunk show offers a display of vintage men’s suits, a steamer trunk filled with accessories and some dapper men’s hats.
The committee members said they plan to change up the displays several times a year to create fresh new exhibits, based on themes like, “The Lawn Party,” “Summer Wedding,” “A House in Mourning,” “Holiday Celebration,” and “Childhood Memories.”
The women said they hope the exhibit will attract tour groups to the community or perhaps those visiting for a class reunion or family reunion. Opportunities to partner with other groups in the community, such as the library or Wilson Brewer Park are also a possibility, they said.
In addition to offering a glimpse of fashions from bygone days, the home is a museum of the architecture and décor of the day. Each of the upstairs rooms have been furnished in a manner suitable for a Victorian style home. There’s a vintage fainting couch in one room and another features a delicate china tea set ready to for an afternoon tea party.
Guests visiting the exhibit will have a chance to see what it was like to live in a late 1880’s home. The back part of the house was the maid’s quarters. Getter and Robb pointed out the lower ceilings, simpler moldings and muted wall colors. As guests step up into the family’s quarters, they will find higher ceilings, colorful wallpaper and the elaborately carved banister and curved staircase leading to the front hallway.
The house was the home of Jane and Kendall Young, early Webster City benefactors. Built in 1873, the home originally set on four lots facing Willson Avenue. The house featured five gables, seven fireplaces — only one of which remains –and 11-foot ceilings. The home was moved in 1904 to make room for the new Kendall Young Library. It was moved to its current location when the library expanded in 1997.
An open house
A ribbon cutting with the Webster City Chamber of Commerce for the new vintage clothing display will be held Thursday, Feb. 14 at 9 a.m.
The pubic is invited to tour the exhibit on Sunday, Feb. 17 when the Women’s Club holds an open house. The event will be from 1 to 3 p.m.
“People visiting the exhibit will be able to see if for free during the open house,” said Getter. “But after that, there will be an admission charge.”