Happy 160th Birthday, Gustav Stickley!

Vonda K. Givens Executive Director
Kristen McCauley, Senior Manager of Education and Interpretation
Maeve Forde, Visitor Services Associate

March 9 will mark 160 years since Gustav Stickley’s birth. To celebrate, it would be easy to write about Gustav Stickley’s significance in years past. We tell that story every day at the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, but as I started to write, I wondered if this article could focus on the future instead. What about Stickley’s significance in years to come? What will he mean to future generations?Happy Birthday Gustav Stickley!

Since sharing Stickley with young people—from Millennials to Generation Z (in other words, anyone born after 1982)—is often office conversation, this Generation X-er enlisted staffers (and actual young people) for help. Kristen McCauley, Senior Manager of Education and Interpretation, on staff for 7 years, and Maeve Forde, Visitor Services Associate, on staff for 10 months, are both Millennials and fervent advocates (and defenders) of their generation. Well-educated on Stickley and Arts and Crafts, they are, perhaps most importantly, confident in the museum’s ability to effectively connect with future generations. In looking ahead to 160 more years of Stickley, I’m pleased to share their insights and let them take it from here.

VG: What will attract Millennials to Stickley?

MF: When I first started learning about Gustav Stickley, I really didn’t expect to find many similarities between me and my peers and a man who was born nearly a century and a half before we were.  I think most people of my generation (and probably most people in general) can’t name many furniture designers, magazine publishers, architects, or business magnates, let alone name one person who was all of those things.  But the more I learn about Stickley, the more he seems to me like a pre-millennial millennial.  Or, maybe my generation is a bunch of post-Stickley inadvertent Craftsman-lifestyle enthusiasts.  Either way, my generation and Gustav Stickley have more in common than people might think, and that will be what draws millennials to Stickley.

One of the most impressive things about Stickley is how many different hats he wore.  He engaged in many different business ventures, from furniture design to magazine publishing, to an attempt at running a school.  Stickley did all that because he could and because he wanted to, and while that isn’t exactly the case for many millennials, they can still identify with having different skills and interests.  Millennials grew up with the Internet and have been exposed to more knowledge at their fingertips than any previous generation by an exponential measure.  Whereas Stickley had no formal architecture training, millennials grew up being able to teach themselves just about anything with the infinite resources of the Internet.  Millennials can identify with Stickley in the sense that, since no job is guaranteed, there are ways to build knowledge and experience other than the traditional path.

Millennials are known for being constantly on their phones.  But, they’re not just texting into the void, they’re making connections and forming communities.  Gustav Stickley, throughout his career, didn’t just build furniture, he fostered a community.  He was a pioneer of Arts and Crafts in America, and the style’s popularity here is at least partly due to his stewardship.  He wasn’t just selling furniture, he was promoting a whole lifestyle.  He wasn’t just publishing pictures of his furniture, he was spreading a message.  While millennials write tweet threads that they can instantly share with the world, Stickley published his own magazine to get his ideas out there.  Millennials don’t often hesitate to share pictures they like on their Instagrams, and Stickley similarly presented his ideal images through his magazine, through his company’s catalogue and through the work he did.

When a millennial learns more about Stickley and sees how drawn he was to the idea of community—the idea of sharing thoughts, ideas, and plans with like-minded people—that young person will likely see a reflection of themself or their peers.  Stickley didn’t have social media like we do now, but he did have a drive to share his work and to engage with people about it.  He wanted Craftsman Farms to be a community.  In his editorials in The Craftsman, he speaks with warmth and familiarity to and about his readers.  We know that Stickley was friendly with other Arts and Crafts artists, but he also was open to influences from other styles from other parts of the world.  He effectively communicated his own ideas and cultivated a following for them in a way that rivals modern communication over social media.  In fact, if Twitter was around when Stickley was alive, he probably would have been quite active in the “#ArtsAndCrafts” tag (and he probably would’ve been a fan of all the available tree emojis, too).

This connection is something that will draw millennials to Stickley as a leader and a businessman.  As a craftsman, though, millennials will be drawn to Stickley’s practicality and the wonderful simplicity that comes with it.  Stickley, and the Arts and Crafts movement as a whole, isn’t interested in doing or being anything for the sake of being flashy.  Furniture in this style is practically designed and well made.  Millennials, who came of age at a time of significant financial crisis and with significant student debt, love a good deal.  Furnishings in this style not only look good, but also are built to last.

Simply put, what will draw millennials most to Stickley is all that they have in common.  The way they see communication and their relationship to the world around them, though separated by a century of technological advancement, is ultimately similar.  Both millennials and Stickley reach out to others to share similarly held ideas, to build communities off those connections, and to share influence.  Most millennials might not be able to identify a piece of Stickley furniture when they look at it, but most millennials will appreciate the practicality and lack of ego in his work.


VG: How do you approach sharing Stickley with Generation Z?

KM: We all start out as kids. I remember my first trip to a history museum. It was Old Bethpage Village on Long Island in New York. At the time I was perhaps a little obsessed with the “Little House on the Prairie” book series, and my parents told me this place was just like the prairie the Ingalls’ family called home. That may have been a small fib to get a 7-year-old kid excited about visiting a history museum—but it worked! Although, I quickly realized Laura Ingalls left out just how hot and smelly prairie life could be.

My hometown of Milltown, NJ, had a large, mostly abandoned, 22-acre, early 20th century industrial complex comprised of 15 buildings, once home to the Michelin Tire Company—beautiful red brick buildings, green wooden doors, and the orderliness of form that I really appreciated visually. The site was deemed an eye-sore by some and an icon by others. It was fought over for literally my whole life (it was ultimately torn down just last year). I loved exploring this site as a kid, usually with my sisters on our bikes on some summer adventure in the neighborhood. Later, as a graduate student, I wrote papers about its history and got involved in some of the last-ditch efforts to save the site by adapting the buildings into housing units and retail spaces. Needless to say, it wasn’t successful.

On an 8th grade class trip to Washington DC, I was especially excited to see the Hope Diamond in the National Museum of Natural History—you see, the Hope Diamond looks a whole lot like the infamous blue diamond necklace from the film Titanic, which had come out just a year earlier and, like most tweens in the late 90s, I was a big Leo DiCaprio fan. (Still am!)

My father has always been a model-railroader and as kids he would often take my sisters and me to see other model railroader’s layouts. There’s a certain nostalgia required to enjoy model-railroading. Layouts often reflect turn-of-the-century or mid-century life with steam engines and passenger cars passing through scenes reminiscent of saccharine fictional small towns like Pleasantville, Smallville or Riverdale. Both my parents loved classic movies. I often feel like it was inevitable that I grew up to be a history nerd.

I have stories like these at regular intervals throughout my life. And if you are a history lover, museum supporter, volunteer, or fan, you probably have them too. Childhood moments like these fostered a love, respect, and interest in history, material culture, and historic places that I brought with me into adulthood. I didn’t know at the time that exploring the abandoned tire factory or sitting in a one-room-schoolhouse imagining myself as Laura Ingalls would ultimately guide my academic path and shape my career, but here we are!

Now, as the Senior Manager of Education and Interpretation, I think a lot about how a visit to the Stickley Museum can be a meaningful and memorable experience for our younger visitors. Whether they come here for a Girl Scout program, on Family Day, or for one of our regular tours, as I see it, these are all opportunities to create a new generation of history-lovers, museum-supporters, preservationists, and yes — Arts and Crafts enthusiasts. And have some fun while we’re at it!Girl Scouts

From the very beginning, there has always been a place for children in the Craftsman movement. Stickley wrote in The Craftsman magazine that the movement “stands for the rights of the children to health and happiness, through an education that will develop hands as well as heads”(1). He envisioned Craftsman Farms as a place where young people could develop useful skills, be inspired by nature, and find some relief from the hectic pace of life during a new industrial age. The plan for his farm school was to provide a practical education as well as an academic one, to use the farm as a teaching tool in order to give his students “brains behind his fingers as well as in his head”(2). Our goals today are not entirely dissimilar. We want the museum experience to be fun and engaging, encourage thinking, wondering, and questioning. It should also be an interactive experience with opportunities for hands-on learning.

Gen Z is generally defined as kids born after 1998. Today’s kids have always known technology—they’ve grown up with internet and smart phones, smart boards at school, and online video tutorials for just-about-anything—they are great multi-taskers, and they are more likely than previous generations to follow non-traditional paths in life, thanks in part to seeing older generations struggle economically during and after the recession. This generation is huge and hugely diverse. They are our future. And they’re paying attention. If recent current events are any indication, they are not content with the status quo. They are challenging norms wherever they go.

About seven or eight years old is when children first develop a sense of the past and an understanding of chronological time—past, present, future. This is why so often those first meaningful museum experiences, like my own at Bethpage, happen around this age. If we are successful in engaging these young visitors at this pivotal time, I believe we can make a significant impact that will benefit the individual child, as well as the collective future of the Arts and Crafts movement. When a kid comes to the museum, they don’t know why they should care about this person, this place, and what happened here. So what will make a museum visit meaningful and memorable for them? I think it boils down to connection. So we ask questions that focus looking, stimulate thinking, and structure an exploration of the physical space to help kids make connections between their world and Mr. Stickley’s world.

For example, our programs for Girl Scouts (kids that range in age from 7 to 14 years) focus on hands-on activities like embroidery, bookmaking or pottery. For many of these kids, it is the first time they get to hold clay in their hands or thread a needle. We talk about how Mr. Stickley was part of a group of designers and craftspeople who valued making things by hand; how the time and effort that go into making a thing by hand adds to the thing’s value, both sentimental and monetary. Then—and this is important—they get to do the thing—make the pinch pot, embroider the sampler, bind the book, dial the rotary phone, etc. It is well established that we retain more information (about 75%) by doing a thing, versus just reading (10%) or hearing about it (20%). Most of us can’t become a skilled potter just by reading about it. So every time I overhear a young girl, on her way out of a workshop, whisper to a friend that she has plans for a book series or ask a parent if she can go to the craft store for more embroidery thread so she can keep cross-stitching, I’m elated! Our goal is for kids to leave feeling proud in what they accomplished here and inspired and motivated for what comes beyond. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see some of these kids exhibiting at the Grove Park Inn (National Arts & Crafts Conference) some day!

We live a technology filled world. “We accept without conscious wonder the mechanical and scientific miracles which are part of the fabric of our daily life; but are aroused to incredulous interest when reminded that all of this is relatively a mushroom growth, a palace of marvels raised by the genii in a single night”(3). Even Stickley, in his own time, worried about the speed with which technology was evolving: “We have taught the sunlight to reproduce our features upon paper, steam to haul us swiftly and smoothly across continents and oceans, and electricity to turn night into day for us and to carry our messages to the ends of the earth in the twinkling of an eye”(4).  Through our programming, I think one of the most valuable things the museum does for our visitors, both young and young-at-heart, in today’s world of constant distractions is: we make time. With the myriad of devices, services, conveniences competing for our time, it can seem like there is no time to slow down, but we can do that. We can carve out time. We can give you a reason to slow down.

Every adult today who values quality craftsmanship and good design, who respects history and historic places, was once a curious seven-year-old too. It makes me wonder, what are the experiences that made you an Arts and Crafts enthusiast?

Join our celebration! Make a donation in honor of Gustav Stickley and insure that his historic home, Craftsman Farms, is here for future generations.


1. Stickley, Gustav. “The Craftsman Movement: Its Origin and Growth.” The Craftsman Vol. XXV, Number 1 (October 1913).  Page 18.
2. “A Visit to Craftsman Farms: The Study of an Educational Ideal.” The Craftsman Vol. XVIII, Number 6 (September 1910).  Page 642
3. Roberts, W. Carman. “Are we becoming “civilized” too rapidly.” The Craftsman Vol. XVII, Number 4 (January 1910). Page 355.
4. Roberts, W. Carman. “Are we becoming “civilized” too rapidly.” The Craftsman Vol. XVII, Number 4 (January 1910). Page 355.

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2017 Administration Building Rehabilitation!

The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms is delighted to announce plans to undertake a full rehabilitation of the Administration Building on the Craftsman Farms campus. This project, made possible through generous Open Space funding support from the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills, will be launched in the latter half of 2017.

Shortly after the museum’s Board of Trustees adopted the organization’s current 5-year strategic plan, the vision for this project emerged. A key objective of the strategic plan was a goal to expand museum facilities to accommodate and encourage future growth. Expanded space was needed for staff offices, exhibitions, programs, and collections storage. While the current administration building project received considerable focus over the past 5 years, in truth, expansion of the museum’s facilities has been an objective of its leadership for many years.

In 2013, Trustees were greatly assisted with progress toward the goal of expansion with the help of Open Space funds from the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills which underwrote feasibility studies on two original buildings, the White Cottage and the Administration Building. The results of these studies led Trustees to take a much closer look at the Administration Building, which was recommended for rehabilitation in the museum’s 2009 Historic Site Master Plan, as the answer to the organization’s most urgent facility needs. (At the same time, Trustees established a stabilization plan for the White Cottage, a project that will also launch in 2017. Funded by generous grants from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills, this project will be featured in a future newsletter.)

Currently housing administrative offices, the Administration building, in the Stickley era, was used for utilitarian purposes, with a garage at its lower level and a workshop on its upper floors, which were devastated by fire around 1950. After the fire only one floor was rebuilt. Originally, this building was located at the far end of the residential core of the property. Its rear windows would have overlooked the orchard, which is now the main parking lot. Today, with Route 10 serving as the only access point to the property (the original access on Route 53 is blocked), the Administration Building is the first building seen by visitors.

With the promising results of the feasibility study, Trustees began working with HMR Architects on a plan for total rehabilitation of the Administration Building—a rehabilitation that would bring substantial progress in expanding facilities, particularly space for programs, staff offices, and collections storage. The new design preserves the original garage at the lower level, making it a combination multi-use conference room and program space, with seating for up to 100 people. The main and 2nd floor will be office space, with a large area on the upper floor set aside for collections storage. In rebuilding the two floors, not only does this plan re-establish Stickley’s original vision for the building, it provides a suitably impressive entrance to this important National Historic Landmark.

Read more about our temporary relocation plans and all of our upcoming programs in the Summer 2017 issue of Notes from the Farms.

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Original: Gustav Stickley Furnishes His Log House

Original: Gustav Stickley Furnishes His Log House

Saturday, May 20 to Sunday, December 31

Our 2017 exhibition Original: Gustav Stickley Furnishes His Log House, co-curated by Dr. Jonathan Clancy and Peter K. Mars, will offer a new exploration of the original interior of the Log House, Stickley’s family home and the heart of his ideal country estate, Craftsman Farms. From 1911 to 1917, the Log House served as a showcase for Stickley’s signature Craftsman Workshops furnishings and for his Arts and Crafts aesthetic. The exhibition, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of Stickley’s 1917 sale of the property, will celebrate his achievements at Craftsman Farms with a fresh focus on the Log House interior and its original furnishings.

Presenting a comprehensive view of Stickley’s material world, the exhibition will be incorporated throughout the Log House, and will feature furniture, home furnishings, and cherished family belongings known to be original to Gustav Stickley’s home before it was sold in 1917. It will offer insights into the Log House’s interior aesthetic—a blend of special commissions, English and French decorative arts, and furnishings with sentimental value—and into Stickley’s personal taste and style.

Important original furniture and furnishings on loan to the museum during this commemorative year will be featured, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s generous loan of a green-stained elm cabinet with copper hardware that is visible in published photos of the Log House dining room. In sharing new research on the Stickley Museum’s collection, the exhibition will highlight the institution’s long-term commitment to return original furnishings to the Log House.

photo courtesy of The Met

Original will give viewers the opportunity to experience Stickley’s aesthetic vision by bringing together objects that have not been seen collectively since Craftsman Farms was sold in 1917. Assembled at the height of his entrepreneurial success, the original furnishings of the Log House provide a unique look into the taste and mind of one of the Arts and Crafts movement’s most original thinkers.

Visitors may view this special exhibition on all regular tours of the Log House, which run hourly Thursday to Sunday, from 12:15 to 3:15. The museum will also offer special opportunities to experience the exhibition including an Exhibition Opening on Saturday, May 20, and exclusive after-hours tours with curator Pete Mars in June and July.


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North Cottage Preservation in Progress

Restoration of the North Cottage windows, a project that has long been in the works for the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, got underway in the fall of 2016. Slated to be completed in early 2017, the project is supported by grants from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund and the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills, which had previously awarded a 2013 grant funding its first phase.

Located on the northeast corner of the current property, the North and South Cottages were completed in 1910. The first buildings constructed at Craftsman Farms, these cottages were home to the Stickley family until the Log House was completed in 1911. Although they were originally envisioned as part of Stickley’s unrealized school, the cottages instead became homes to the growing young families of his daughters Barbara and Mildred Stickley, who both married at Craftsman Farms during the family’s years on the property. The Farny family, who purchased Craftsman Farms in 1917, rented out the cottages during the latter half (the 1950s through the late 1980s) of their years on the property.

After Craftsman Farms was rescued from private development in 1989, preservation work was focused primarily on the Log House, Stickley’s home and the heart of the property. Though work on the Log House will continue, the stabilization of the structure over the years, has made it possible to turn attention to other buildings. The North Cottage emerged as an obvious place to start.

Over the past ten years, the museum has undertaken a variety of projects to preserve the North Cottage, making it available for programs and retaining some of the building’s Farny-era history. When preservation projects first began on the North Cottage, all of its original windows were removed to prevent their further deterioration. Once a restoration plan for the windows was in place, the museum sought funding to begin the work.

While the project is in progress, the North Cottage has been closed, though visitors will occasionally see work underway, both inside and out, as the window trim is restored (see below).

“So far I’ve seen two windows with their leaded glass restored, and I’m eager to see them installed,” said Executive Director Vonda Givens. “They’re beautiful and have renewed my appreciation for Gustav Stickley’s attention to detail on the property.”

We look forward to re-opening the North Cottage, which is often a feature of special interest tours, for programs in 2017. Watch our event calendar for details and a chance to see the newly restored windows yourself!

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From the Director’s Chair by Vonda K. Givens

Vonda Givens

.From the Director’s Chair
expanded from the letter in
the Summer 2014 issue of
Notes from the Farms
Vonda K. Givens, Acting Executive Director


During the museum’s recent trip to Chicago, organized by Arts & Crafts Tours, I was introduced to the Glessner House and architect Henry Hobson Richardson, whose work influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan.

Mrs. Glessner

Photo courtesy of Glessner House Museum.

As much as I enjoyed seeing this landmark home, I was equally intrigued by the Glessners, the remarkable couple who built it. Both raised in modest households, the Glessners came to wealth through Mr. Glessner’s farm machinery business, which later became International Harvester.  As they prepared to build their dream home, they struggled to find an architect, until they approached Richardson. Though his fortress-like design was negatively received by the community even before it was built, Richardson and the Glessners were united in their vision. The Glessners so admired Richardson that his portrait was hung—and remains—in the entry way of their home, the cozy interiors of which featured Morris wallpapers, William de Morgan hearth tiles, many Arts and Crafts furnishings and a thoughtful collection of books and art.

As the house’s promotional materials note, the Glessners together sought the “life of the mind,” dedicating their home and lives to cultural pursuits, including their role in founding the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. While it’s clear that Mr. Glessner was an accomplished man, it was Mrs. Glessner who most captured my imagination. In room after room, as their story unfolded, Mrs. Glessner’s character emerged.

Though her wealth was linked directly to the rise of industrialization, I have come to think of Mrs. Glessner’s life as a singular embodiment of Arts and Crafts philosophy. An avid reader, collector, and artist in her own right, she applied herself equally to the development of her mind and hands. With her husband, she was dedicated to making a home that prized comfort and intimacy over grandeur and the latest fashion.

The mother of two, Frances Glessner shared an office with her husband, an unusual arrangement for the time, kept a diary of their household’s daily life for 40 years, and engaged in a wide variety of pursuits, including oversight of a weekly book club which met for 37 years. She was a skilled seamstress, needleworker, and knitter—completing an impressive array of more than 300 textiles, many on view throughout the house today, and 500 sweaters which she often gifted to those in need. She was a talented pianist and a beekeeper. She maintained a conservatory on their home’s 2nd floor and a silversmithing studio in the basement. A student of cookery, Mrs. Glessners’ knowledge was put to use during their frequent dinner parties.

Of course, it is arguable that with all of her accomplishments, Mrs. Glessner was simply following suit with the cultural activities typical of well-heeled ladies of her time and that, in another era, she, like her husband, would have pursued a professional career, likely with similar success. Yet none of this diminishes her achievements.

We often discuss Stickley’s endorsement of the “simple life,” but pursuing the simple life is quite complex. It requires living thoughtfully and intentionally, a commitment to making your actions a mirror of your inner values. Mrs. Glessner made it look easy.

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‘Tis the Season

Holidays in the Log House: Candlelight Tours

Every year, the Stickley family home is adorned for the holidays in period style, c. 1915, with a focus on Gustav Stickley’s own principles. Utilizing holiday greens, pinecones, and the home’s forest palette, the decorations bring nature indoors and spotlight the Arts and Crafts movement’s emphasis on finding beauty in simplicity of style and materials.

By 1915 , the Christmas tree was a standard part of the American Christmas celebration and you could even light it with a string of electric lights.  Illustrator Thomas Nast had introduced the world to the Santa Claus we know and love today,  and on city streets you would surely find the familiar bell-ringing, Santa Claus-clad donation collectors. 

With the holiday fast approaching, volunteer Julie Peterson shares a behind the scenes look at our annual holiday decorating.

December 2009 100 Every year a group of volunteers gather mid-November to decorate the Log House for the holidays. On the appointed day, blue vinyl storage bins are brought down into the Education Room, carried into the Museum, and opened to reveal garlands, candles and other decorations to be placed on window sills and tables.

One of the rewards of this work is being in the museum without other visitors. It is a quiet place and there is time to really study the details and appreciate the unique features of Stickley’s design.

As we hang garlands and wreaths, we are “up close and personal” and can imagine the Stickley family putting candles on their tree and gathering greens from the yard to make wreaths for the doors. The tree is hung with an assortment of ornaments, some old and some new, and a toy train is assembled at the base.  Trains were some of the first electric toys and were available around 1900.

We imagine the Stickley girls in their bedroom chatting about holiday parties, singing carols around the piano, and working on Christmas crafts like stringing cranberries,  making paper chains and cornucopia cones to fill with candy for hanging on the family’s Christmas tree.   We imagine Mrs. Stickley wrapping gifts for her friends and family.

We make the dining room table ready for their holiday visitors with “cookies” made of handmade plaster and salt dough “fruit” (since nothing used in decorating the museum can be organic, a fire hazard or attract bugs) which represent the popular finger foods of the time.

For the outside doors, I made wreaths from natural materials, and I followed Stickley’s  own principles by harvesting them locally. Last year, hurricane Sandy, provided many downed pine boughs and rhododendron branches to use in decorating the Log House for the holidays.

December 2009 099Stickley’s magazine The Craftsman published several articles advocating the use of natural decorations: Greenery, holly, and mistletoe at the windows and doors suggest a “hint of immortality by remaining fresh and green throughout the apparent death of the world during winter.” (The Craftsman, December 1911, “Christmas Decorations from Winter’s Garden.”)

In January, we’ll come back to take it all down and put it back into storage for another year.

-Julie Peterson

Photos by Barbara Weiskittel

The Log House will be decorated through January 5, 2014.  Tours depart hourly from 12:15 – 3:15 p.m. every Thursday – Sunday.  Plan your visit.

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Help Us Meet The Challenge


Together we can make it happen!

Thanks to your gifts and the gifts of hundreds of generous supporters like you, we are a third of the way to our $7,500 challenge grant! Your annual fund donations support educational programs, building care and maintenance, and the day-to-day operations of the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms.


 Your continued annual support:

  • Helps protect and preserve a National Historic Landmark;
  • Introduces thousands of children to a world of history and culture;
  • Paves the way for visitors with limited mobility;
  • Advances emerging scholars in the Arts & Crafts community;
  • Produces original research and stimulating new exhibits;
  • Welcomes bus tours from senior centers;
  • Cultivates an artist’s residency program;
  • And sustains a high-quality cultural resource.

 But we can’t do it without you! 

Will you help us meet this Challenge with a year-end gift?  Right now, your gift will have a double impact – thanks to this match.

And thanks to generous supporters like you!


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Behind the Scenes of a Summer Internship

Our summer intern, Allison O’Keeffe, reflects on her experience and getting to work with the museum’s collection.  

First Issue of The Craftsman Oct 1901While meandering through the grounds of Craftsman Farms, past the lily-studded pond, looking up at the former home of the furniture designer and craftsman Gustav Stickley and his family, I marveled at the beauty of the building. From its broad log beams to its towering chimney, it is almost impossible for me to imagine the skill that it must have taken to achieve its beautifully simple design. Gustav’s eminence in the American Arts & Crafts movement, his legacy of craftsmanship lives on through the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms.

Similar to the integral joinery in Stickley’s furniture, the museum is built on the hard work of its staff. During my internship at Craftsman Farms I gathered a greater understanding about how museums help to protect historic treasures, provide knowledge, and work outside of the usual visitor perspective. I had little idea just how much happens behind-the-scenes and how important it is to organize and catalog the objects in the museum’s collection. Working with the museum’s registrar I explored the many books, magazines, and catalogs that the museum owns.

While the furniture and home design of Craftsman Farms might be a key attraction, the whole turn-of-the century style would not be complete without period books and Gustav Stickley’s self-published The Craftsman magazine. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of interning at Craftsman Farms was having an opportunity to hold knowledge from the past in my hands. Being able to carefully turn the delicate pages of hundred-year-old Craftsman magazines and imagining the person who may have owned them and cherished their contents enough to keep them safe through the years.

An article from The Craftsman that has wedged itself in my mind hopefully describes the sportsman’s paradise that could be achieved with the wholesale release of exotic Asian pheasants into the woodlands and meadows of the United States. The sole purpose of these birds, of course, was to shoot them. It even describes, not only how to raise them and insure that they populate the wild, but what bird is best to eat, how and served with what. While modern conservationists would most-certainly shudder at the purposeful release of thousands of invasive bird species into the wild, the article makes for a very entertaining read.

As the museum has been the recipient of generous donations of books, magazines, and catalogs over the years, a daunting task awaited me. Each book, magazine, and catalog must be assigned a unique number that is tied to information such as who donated it and in what year. The details are then entered into the museum’s database. Even the height, width, and number of pages must be accounted for. They must then find a home within the Stickley Museum where they can be easily accessed and kept safe. The more robust and alluring books, perhaps with gilt pages or embossed leather covers, might be out on display to catch an inquisitive eye. These gems are only the tip of the greater trove of treasures protected by Craftsman Farms.

I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to peek under the lid of this treasure chest. Helping to evaluate, catalog, and sometimes peruse the collection has offered me valuable insight into just what happens behind the scenes at Craftsman Farms. This experience has also piqued my interest in the rest of the Arts & Crafts movement and given me insight into what makes The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms so endearing.

– Allison O’Keeffe is a senior at Skidmore College studying Fine Arts and Art History. She first became interested in Gustav Stickley and the American and European Arts & Crafts movements when taking a course called “the History of Modern Design” at Skidmore. She also finds inspiration for her own artwork in the designs of the movement.

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An August visit to Craftsman Farms

Log House Exterior Summer 012

“As the automobile turned up the shady road at Craftsman Farms the Traveler was struck again by the charm of the houses – the air of content with which they nestled beneath their own protecting eaves.”  —  The Craftsman, October 1910.


Photo: Vonda Givens, August 2013.

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Thoughts on the Craftsman Farms Walking Tour

Craftsman Farms Walking Tour

On Saturday, June 15 we launched our summer walking tour, “In Mr. Stickley’s Steps” with a special preview for Stickley Museum members.  The Craftsman Farms Walking Tour will be offered regularly through the summer beginning this Saturday. Guest blogger and Education Intern, Alexa Logush, offers up some of her thoughts on the inaugural tour in today’s blog.

The Stickley Museum’s new walking tour debuted on Saturday, June 15, 2013, offering a new look at the grounds at Craftsman Farms. This marvelous, two-hour tour explores the beauty and history of the museum, allowing its visitors to discover the North Cottage, White Cottage, the old orchards, and dairy barn, which are sights not typically visited on a regular house tour. Visitors also can enter the North Cottage and truly witness what life was like when Gustav Stickley and his family lived at Craftsman Farms. Tours are offered on the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of July and August.

Take a closer look on the Craftsman Farms Walking TourWalking through the grounds of Craftsman Farms provides adventuresome Arts and Crafts lovers with a rich display of the very present past. As a relatively new summer intern here at the Stickley Museum, I began the walking tour with an open mind and my trusty Canon camera dangling from my neck. Feeling the sun on my face and the light breeze at my back, it could not have been a more perfect day to experience this particular tour. Led by our guide, Pete, as a group, we were able to mosey about the grounds, listening intently to the truth behind events that once occurred beneath our very feet.

The walking tour expands the world of the Stickley family so that sights seem to come to life as you walk along, listen, and learn. Beginning at the Stickley house entrance, the tour emphasizes quiet reflection and a true connection with the world around you. It’s easy to become lost among the magnificent greenery, brawny stonework, and jovial foxgloves of Craftsman Farms. Crumbling brick and aged structures, such as the old fire-stricken dairy barn, add a slight hint of mystery to the history of the area. At certain points on the tour, I found myself a part of the past. I could see horses lazily nodding their heads near the dairy barn and the older Stickley girls walking arm in arm across the now hidden paths of the rose garden.

Visit the North Cottage on the Craftsman Farms Walking Tour

Each individual on the tour becomes acquainted with their own experience that is unique to their personal interests and knowledge. Stickley enthusiasts will be thrilled to experience entering the North Cottage, settling into the Arts and Crafts style furniture there, and simply walking alongside the old vineyard, freeing their imaginations.

Personally, I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced something quite like the walking tour. It encouraged me to find my place at Craftsman Farms, allowing me to see what once went on there. The magic of Craftsman Farms tingles through your toes and fingertips, urging you to discover more. I suppose the grounds, bursting with life and beauty, really speak to you, coaxing you to share your own stories as it shares its stories with you.

 Alexa Logush is a junior at The College of New Jersey, studying History and English. She will be interning at the Stickley Museum throughout the summer to learn more about the Arts and Crafts movement, the Stickley family, and Craftsman Farms. The Stickley Museum first struck her interest when her high school Art History teacher mentioned Arts and Crafts-era furniture and Gustav Stickley during class. She is eager to learn more about the world of the Stickley family.


The Craftsman Farms Walking Tour will be offered most Saturdays in July and August.  Visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes.  Bathroom breaks are offered throughout the tour and drinking water is provided.  See StickleyMuseum.org for more information and to make reservations.


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