Archive for September 6, 2011

Hidden Historical Facts at Conner Prairie

September 6, 2011 1 comment
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park

Conner Prairie Interactive History Park. Photo provided by Conner Prairie.

Guest Blogger:
Sarah Frey, Conner Prairie

We cover a lot of historical territory as we provide opportunities to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana’s past. There’s so much to do and see throughout each of our Experience Areas, that often times it may seem hard to see it all, and learn everything! In fact, there may be some hidden historical secrets that you may have missed when you visited last. Take a look at the list below and see if you knew about these hidden historical facts about Conner Prairie’s various historic experiences. The next time you visit us, tour the areas and see if you can locate what is listed below, and maybe discover more hidden history!

Top Ten Hidden Historical Facts around Conner Prairie

10.) As you walk through the Balloon exhibit at our 1859 Balloon Voyage, notice signs painted on the store fronts- each of the businesses listed on the store front, such as The City Drug Store, were actual businesses located on the downtown square in Lafayette, Indiana on the day that Professor Wise made his Air Mail Delivery attempt in 1859.

9.)    When you go to the garden at the Loom House (the white building right next to the Conner Homestead) see if you can find the Broad Ripple Tomato plants. These heirloom tomatoes were thought to be extinct, until a plant was found growing through a crack in a sidewalk in the Broad Ripple Neighborhood of Indianapolis. The seedling was transplanted, and since then, they have been propagated, and brought back from the near brink of extinction. Because of where it was discovered it is now called the “Broad Ripple Yellow Currant Tomato.”

8.)    As you walk through the center of Prairietown, stop by Dr. Campbell’s house and look for the stone sundial in the front yard. In 1836, time zones and standardized time had not been instituted in America yet, and so “working by the clock” was a bit of a foreign concept. Most people worked according to the sun, and the amount of available daylight to accomplish their tasks. While some people did own pocket watches, or clocks, ancient technology such as the sundial simply provided a rough estimate of the time of day.

7.)    At the McClure home look for the unpainted chair on display. This was done to highlight how a carpenter used different types of wood for different parts of a chair. Flexible wood such as hickory was used on the back and spindles of the chair to allow it to bend and flex as a sitter leaned back on the chair. Other types of wood were used for the seat (for strength, and ease of carving) and the legs (for strength and sturdiness.)

6.)     If you stop by the Animal Encounters Barn, look to your left and up as you enter and you will see a log beam supporting a second story loft. This historic log beam is cut from a single poplar log, and measures 35 feet in length, 11 inches thick and is over 23 inches tall at its widest point. It weighs over 1200 lbs.

5.)    When you go to the Conner Homestead, take a look to the left of the porch, at the back of the house and you will see a section of curved brick extending out from the home. This is a beehive oven built into the house off of the kitchen. It was used to make baked goods such as bread and pies.

4.)    When you go through the 1863 Civil War Journey, be sure to notice the white and green schoolhouse. This building was built in the 1850s, and was originally used as a one room schoolhouse located near Syracuse in Kosciusko County, Indiana. It was moved to Conner Prairie in the 1970s.

3.)    While you go to the Lenape Indian Camp, make sure to notice the log cabin at the back of the site- this building was one of several buildings moved in by Eli Lilly in the 1930s to help tell the story of the fur trade, and served as the fur traders “home” just like it does for our current character Duncan McKinnen.

2.)    If you walk around to the front of the Conner Homestead, take a look at the Prairie. You will notice that not only do we have native prairie grass planted, we also have crops planted. This land has been continuously farmed for over 200 years, and these crops continue this long tradition of land cultivation.

1.)    Continue to look at the Prairie, and at the very edge of the far tree line, you will see an earthen berm rise up beneath the tree line. This earthen rise stretches completely around the horseshoe bend in the White River. This was part of a levee, or flood control system, built by Eli Lilly in the 1930s. This engineering feat was completed over several years of construction, and provided work for area laborers during the Great Depression.

For more information, visit, or call 317-776-6006.