Worker's House & Gallery

History and Today

The Shreveville Era ~ 1831– 1848
The first house on this location was built between 1831 and 1840 as a part of the “upper village” of Shreveville along with 17 other multiple residence homes in three rows on two parallel streets. There were six structures on each of the three rows in this part of the village.

  • This home was one of two Park Avenue quadruple-dwelling homes.
  • Dwellings were two-story brick structures with a gable-roof and no indoor plumbing.
  • On average, between six and seven people occupied each dwelling, most of which consisted of a family unit. About 25% of the households took on borders.
  • The homes on Park Avenue were the first to be built in Shreveville and were the smallest in the village.
  • The father would have worked in the factory, and since half of the women in the village were employed in the factory, only half would have been stay-at-home mothers. Children were expected to go to school, and not work in the factory.
  • The residents of Shreveville worked on average six 12-hour days; men’s wages averaged out to $16/month and women’s $12/month.
The heydays of Shreveville were from 1832 until around 1848. Jonathan and Samuel Shreve operated a cotton spinning and weaving factory, a spool cotton manufactory, a calico print works along with a machine shop, a small sawmill, and a gristmill. There was no rail service to Shreveville – the Pennsylvania RR station and line was not completed until 1852. During the period from 1848 to 1865, life in the village pretty much “dried up,” after the factory closed. We know very little about what went on there, although it is likely that some of the residents continued to live there.


The H.B. Smith Era ~ 1865 – 1887
H. B. Smith purchased the property in 1865 and within a year or so of the purchase, began to modify the village to conform to his industry, which was the manufacture of iron woodworking machinery and later, the Star high-wheeled bicycle, and to his and his wife, Agnes’, personal tastes and objective of creating a model industrial village. The workers’ housing which Smith prided was both attractive and comfortable and surrounded by gardens and flowers.

  • H.B. Smith decided to replace the “upper village” homes on Park Avenue and to demolish the homes on the south side of Maple Avenue, leaving only two rows of houses.
  • The new homes on Park Avenue were constructed between 1866 and 1870 on what was left of the Shreveville dwellings—the cellar holes. Smith’s two-story clapboarded frame homes which overlook the creek, were larger and less crowded.
  • Basic homes at Smithville had five rooms: a sitting room, dining room, kitchen and two bedrooms; with no indoor plumbing.
  • The workers at Smithville were skilled tradesmen, not minimally skilled laborers like the Shreveville workers. The average residents could be considered what we call today “the middle class.”
  • Only men were employed in the factory. Income for working six 10-hour days was $600/month. Although they did not receive paid benefits, contributions into a Benevolent Society could be used in the event of a life crisis situation.
  • Some families took in borders, although with the completion of the Mechanics Hall in 1875, most single men took the option of boarding there.
  • In 1883 there were 300 residents at Smithville, and the average amount of residents per household was just five.
  • Smith encouraged individual gardens at each residence.
  • The amenities provided to village residents by H.B. Smith and his wife Agnes contributed to the quality of their lifestyle, including educational and entertainment opportunities at the opera house, located in Mechanics Hall.

2010 – Present

The Worker’s House & Gallery was restored in 2010. Several differences can be noted between the original construction and the final restoration. An interior opening between the two units was added along with indoor plumbing. The furniture selected to interpret life in this typical worker’s house is basically reflective of life dating from the year it was constructed (middle to late 1860s) by H.B. Smith.
Currently, the Worker’s House & Gallery is housing the Underground Railroad Preview Exhibit until the permanent exhibit space restoration is completed. 

Features

  • Historical Exhibitions
  • Art Exhibitions
  • Workshops