Farm Buildings

A rare view of workers on Stickley's property, from The Craftsman, October 1912.  

While the Log House became the spiritual center and visual symbol of Craftsman Farms, it was the farm buildings surrounding the agricultural core that were the engine of this venture and made possible the picturesque landscapes that Stickley and his family enjoyed.  Containing a cow barn, horse barn, hay sheds, and a carpenter's workshop, this was the one area on the property devoted to labor, with all of its attendant noise, smells, and decidedly unpicturesque visual characteristics.  While Stickley presented himself in The Craftsman as the gentleman farmer, the successful businessman who returned in his advancing years to live a quiet life on the farm now that his affairs were running smoothly, he did so only on the backs of those mainly nameless employees that kept the farm running.  

With a furniture factory in Syracuse, a magazine, and the lease on a 12-story building in Manhattan, the idea of Stickley as the gentleman farmer was always a bit fantastic, for the efforts to manage one of these endeavors (let alone all of them) would have been more than enough to keep the average person busy.   While the gulf between how he presented himself and how he actually lived occupies much of this exhibtion, we should also understand that the dream he was pursuing and promoting is itself a sign (regardless of whether he achieved it completely) of the cultural anxieties that were a motivating feature of the Arts and Crafts movement.  While acknowledging the reality that "the simple life" was a bit of fiction unattainable by most, we must also empathize with the powerful sway that notion held for many, most of whom–as Thoreau said–led lives "of quiet desparation" in an era that was marked by rapid change and a general feeling of disconnetion.  Farm life promised the return to simpler times and simpler values, a shift away from the economic engines of the cities with their noise, hurried pace, and frantic energy.  Here was a chance to reconnect: with one's family, with the land, and most importantly with one's self. 

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