Children’s Playhouses a Hundred Years Ago

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, May 24, 1913:  Went to Sunday School this morning. Was rather lonesome this afternoon.

1913-06-72.b

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Did Grandma ever play with her 8-year-old brother Jimmie when she was feeling bored?

Did Jimmie have a play room filled with his toys? . . . or (and I know that it’s a stretch) maybe a play house?

There was an article on “New Ideas in Children’s Playhouses” in the  June, 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

1913-06-72.cA little latticed playhouse covered with a grapevine which keeps it cool.

1913-06-72.dThis is what it looks like inside. What a delightful place to play school!

1913-06-72.aA portable playhouse that may be moved from one part of the yard to another, so that when it is too sunny in one spot it may be moved into the shade.

27 Responses

  1. I guess after the company and activity of school being at home could be lonesome sometimes. They may not have had such a fancy playhouse but most children manage to invent some sort of playhouse using whatever materials they can find (a blanket and table!).

    • Your comment reminds me of how my children used take the cushions off our sofa and use them (plus a blanket) to make a little “playhouse”. I always thought that it probably wasn’t good for the sofa–but the kids were having so much fun that I never could bring myself to forbid the use of the cushions.

  2. Sunday afternoons were lonely at my house sometimes too. My sisters were many years older than I was, and I didn’t really have any friends who lived nearby.

    • I also remember Sunday afternoons being lonely times. Except for caring for the farm animals, we didn’t do any work on Sunday, and children from neighboring farms didn’t usually come to play on Sunday.

  3. Dad built an outdoor playhouse for my brother and me. It was not as landscaped as your samples from 1913, but it had a window, it was ours, and it was a wonderful place to escape into the stories in our imaginations.

  4. We have cubbies/ cubby houses in Australia with windows a door etc… and in fact my eldest grandchildren have one they need to climb a ladder to enter and they love it… Must say though, that I’ve never seen a cubby as glamorous as those playhouses pictured in the Ladies Home Journal, 1913 :-)

    • Your grandchildren’s cubby house sounds awesome. I also have never seen anything as fancy as the ones in the photos. Maybe it was something for families to dream of having–but not what they’d typically actually build.

  5. Maybe they had a tree house. I wonder if the girls were allowed to climb trees back then.

    • A tree house seems more like what I think they might have actually had. Tree houses might have been been more of a boy thing back then since the girls had to wear skirts. Girls might not have been allowed to do some fun things back then.

  6. My husband built my daughter the most wonderful playhouse when she was little. I was sad to leave it behind when we moved.

  7. I want one.. lol they are beautiful playhouses.

  8. They got to dream and use their imaginations back then – I remember doing the same! I feel bad for kids now a days – I wrote a post about it once. If you get a chance check it out! http://talktodiana.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/tag-youre-it/

    Cheers,
    Diana

  9. I love this post. It’s dear to my heart because my father built me a wonderful playhouse.

  10. Just finished writing a post about my favorite childhood book, which had a section that had pictures of what I considered play houses. Actually, I referenced your other post, http://ahundredyearsago.com/2012/07/10/chores-for-each-day-of-the-week/. : )

  11. It would be interesting to know how many kids had one of those to play in.

    • I bet that few children had playhouses as beautiful as these. More children probably had a treehouse made out old boards, or an old shed that they used as a playhouse.

  12. Those look fun. We used to just drag old blankets into the yard and use the fence and a picnic table on it’s side to make a fort. Orange Blankets worked best, great glow.

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