A few weekends ago Mr. E asked if I wanted to head to a historic site on a Sunday afternoon. Well truth be told it was my first day off in two weeks and I was tired and grumpy and I really didn’t want to. But he sounded earnest and I’m a sucker for making him happy so on this Sunday afternoon I found myself heading for Northumberland and the Joseph Priestly House.
Joseph Priestly was born during in 1733 and did not move to the United States until the 1790’s. He was a theologian, scientist, outdoors-men, teacher and an all around well educated gentleman of the 18th century. He spent most of his life in England and didn’t move to the United States until his teaching on religion got him in a bit of trouble. After having his home and laboratory burned down in the Priestly Riots he fled to London and his 3 sons went to the states to see about purchasing land. They picked Northumberland, PA . Priestly’s wife designed her dream house overlooking the Susquehanna River (although sadly she passed away before the house was completed) and he moved in. Priestly sent the final decade of his life in the home. Dying in the study that he spent much of his time in.
Priestly made many important discoveries including oxygen (and a few other elements), the first Unitarian Church in the United States, he taught students in his home (and was an early proponent of taking them outdoors), among many other important things.
That all being said I went because I love a good house tour. I really couldn’t give a single hoot about science. As 18th century homes go this was a great home. It was big and stately in the English style with lovely view and a great staircase.
Even though I didn’t want to go it was a BEAUTIFUL day. I always enjoy spending afternoons with Mr. E. He doesn’t need to know how lazy I am. The house sadly is showing the decline of museums. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission turned the house over to the Friends Group and it is showing that. There is only one bedroom furnished and it is Priestly’s daughter in laws room. They didn’t have HIS bedroom on display. The volunteer tour guides also were complaining about the site and way it is run while Mr. E and I were touring (unprofessional much?!). Looks like the house could use a little life blown into it and I hope that happens before it becomes another of the properties that is lost due to funding.