Helen Elston Smith

Helen Elston Smith lived in Lane Place from the early 1880s until 1934 when she donated the property to the Montgomery County Historical Society. She was “adopted” as a daughter by her aunt, Joanna Lane, from whom she was willed the property in 1914.

As the child of wealthy and prominent citizens, Helen Smith did not work, but instead became a major fixture on the Crawfordsville social scene. Once she was in her twenties, she began hosting countless numbers of afternoon teas and dinner parties at Lane Place. In particular, she always invited the children and teenagers of Crawfordsville to play and hold events on the Lane Place grounds. In 1896 she rose to the top of the local social pyramid by founding the Dramatic Club–the town’s most exclusive club.

During the 1910s and 1920s, she spent over $27,000 on improvements to Lane Place, and worked hard to maintain it as a historic property. Before the property was ever donated to the MCHS, she commonly gave tours of the house to tourists and other interested parties–a tradition that we now proudly continue.

Helen Smith and friends on a social soiree

Helen Smith (bottom right) and friends, c.1890

Helen Smith was always the life of the party, and was a major fixture at local social, political, and community events in Crawfordsville for half a century. She is pictured above next to her BFF, Anna Willson (later the famed local principal), during a night on the town.


The Guest Bedroom has been restored!

Many of you probably remember that horrible winter we had back in 2014. Sadly, that winter season caused some disturbance at Lane Place. Our Guest Bedroom had severe water damage that left the wallpaper torn and degrading. To reproduce the wallpaper would have cost us thousands of dollars, but the damage needed to be repaired.


Guest Bedroom at Lane Place before the Restoration

Luckily, with the wonderful paint restoration skills of Lora Craft-Whiles, the Guest Bedroom was able to be restored and is ready to be gazed upon once again! What a great gift to have for our visitors when we reopen on March 1, 2016!


Guest Bedroom at Lane Place post Restoration (Taken 2.25.2016)

Thank you again Lora Craft-Whiles! We could not have done this without you!

Come visit Lane Place March 1, 2016 for our reopen and enjoy our new Bicentennial Exhibition!

Simple and sweet local family recipes!

The Bicentennial Exhibit is almost here!

Currently, Lane Place is getting ready for the Bicentennial Exhibition that opens on March 1, 2016. We would love for you to stop by to learn more about the history of Montgomery County!


Object ID: 55.1604. Methodist Episcopal Church Cookbook

On display in the dining room, we have the Methodist Episcopal Church Cookbook, which contains numerous local family recipes from 1886. Many of the community churches compiled cookbooks with some of the delicious recipes created by the women in their congregations. Even Joanna Lane and Susan Wallace have their recipes in this cookbook! Below are examples of their recipes:

Baltimore Sandwiches– One half pint of vinegar, yolks of three eggs, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one teaspoonful of salt, two teaspoonfuls mustard, two large tablespoonfuls of melted butter, a little pepper, two tablespoonfuls of fresh cream, two large coffeecupfuls of boiled ham minced fine using a portion of the fat. Heat the vinegar, beat the yolks of the eggs, sugar, salt, mustard, butter, pepper, well together and stir into the hot vinegar. Continue stirring on the stove till the sauce bubbles; then add the cream and pour it over the ham; have ready baking powder biscuits rolled thin and cut small. Thoroughly bake or they will be soggy, split and spread with butter while slightly warm, then spread thickly with the minced ham and lay the halves together.

-Susan Wallace

Milk Bread– The night before baking make a thick sponge with a pint of scalded and cooled milk in which is stirred a half teacup of potato yeast. In the morning add a quart of scalded and cooled milk. Make into a thick batter. When light knead into loaves. Both sponges must be very light. Put no salt in the bread.

-Mrs. H. S. Lane



Caring for your silver

What is that stuff?


Have you ever noticed that dark brown or black residue all over your silver? Does it look something like this?


Well, that ugly stain on your silver is called tarnish and it is a typical corrosion that is usually found on silver. Tarnish is usually the result of exposure to air or moisture.

How can you get rid of tarnish?

Here is one gentle way to polish your silver without chemicals:

  • Step 1: Pour some water with a pinch of soap into Calcium Carbonate – mix
    • What is Calcium Carbonate? : CaCOis a white, insoluble solid sometimes called limestone, calcite, aragonite, chalk, marble, pearl, and oyster. The three main elements that make up Calcium Carbonate are carbon, calcium, and oxygen. It is commonly found in rocks and it is the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells.
  • Step 2: Dab a cotton ball into the solution and rub this paste onto the silver
  • Step 3: Wash away the chalky residue with water

(For the finer and more detailed parts on your silver, use a magnifying glass and clean inside the grooves with a toothpick)

But most importantly: Be gentle!

The result is beautiful and you will finally get back that picture perfect shine!


Joanna’s silver

What would Joanna Lane have said if she saw her silver unpolished? Well, most likely she would have never let it get tarnished in the first place! Joanna would have kept her silver polished and shiny to impress her guests. Generally, it was the butler who polished the silver. However, if the household had no butler, like the Lanes, then the maid would be in charge of cleaning the silver along with her other chores. Victorian etiquette dictates that a women’s silver should be pristine, especially if you are serving it to your guests. Joanna would not have been happy if her maid brought in a tarnished tray to serve to her guests!

Our Storage needs to be updated…

Because our storage needs some serious TLC, we are in the process of redesigning storage! This is an extensive but much needed project here at Lane Place. So far, we have already repackaged and boxed an entire shelving unit worth of artifacts. This means that we have examined the artifacts, cleaned them if they needed a dusting, and protected them with acid-free tissue paper inside of an acid-free/water proof box. Volara or ethafoam has been used on those objects that need extra padding and protection.

While we were rehousing artifacts, we were surprised to come across Native American paintings that had been lost in storage since 1980! This was a tremendous find and both prints were in good condition, minus some old water damage. These prints have been documented to be 173 years old and originally belonged to Maj. Isaac Compton Elston I, who had many Native American friends.

(Object IDs: 2015.10.1 and 2015.10.2) Native American Lithographs of Wake Chai, a Saukie Chief, and Els-Kwau-Ta-Waw, The Open Door

Cleaning a Historic House

How is a historic house museum different than your home?

As a museum, the objects in the home are entrusted to MCHS in order to be preserved for future generations. That means that, in everything we do, we must think about the safety of the objects. Because of this, housekeeping at a historic house museum is a tricky business. A balance must be kept between the preservation of the objects and the appearance of the home. Cleaning can both help and hinder the preservation of an object.

Bugs can be a giant nuisance when trying to preserve objects, so a generally clean area must be maintained to keep these pests at bay. One easy way to do this is to not allow any food or live plants into the home. Sometimes, even dusting flat wood surfaces and sweeping the floors help to keep those pesky bugs away. However, dusting some objects too often could be harmful and cause them to degrade faster.  Some items, like ceramics, can only be cleaned monthly, whereas other artifacts, like metals, should be cleaned even more infrequently.

A deep cleaning of the house, like cleaning the rugs, only happens once or twice a year. Our curator/collections manager is hard at work on these tasks while we are closed for the winter. Hopefully, by following such preservation rules, we can keep our collection for many generations to come.

A sneak peek into our collection!

55.1437.3 & .7

Object ID: 55.1437.3 & .7– This is a white porcelain soup cup that was used for formal luncheons. Larger flat soup plates were used for formal dinners.


War Memorial Exhibit coming to Lane Place!

Spanish-American War

Uniformed men from the 158th Indiana Volunteers in the Spanish-American War. The 158th Indiana Volunteers were composed of men from Indianapolis, Rochester, Frankfort, Franklin, Winchester, Covington, Sheridan, Martinsville, Kokomo, and Crawfordsville. 

Do you like military history? Are you interested in learning about Montgomery County’s war contributions? If so, then visit the Lane Place on November 6 through November 25, 2015 and “Walk in their Footsteps…” during this brief War Memorial Exhibit. Uncover priceless wartime artifacts and see the faces of local soldiers who served. Plus, Veterans are free! You do not want to miss it!

War Memorial Exhibit Flyer

Remembering Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Lithographic print of Abraham Lincoln (1864)

The Montgomery County Historical Society was asked to partake in a Remembering Lincoln Digital Collection Exhibit that Ford’s Theater designed!

If you would like to see the items that the Lane Place has contributed to this exhibit, such as the locket containing Lincoln’s hair, the funeral wreath on Lincoln’s casket, and Henry Lane’s pallbearer’s ribbon, visit the website and click on “Contributors.”

Also, don’t forget to read the story about Abraham Lincoln’s legacy and assassination, as well as view the other museums who are participating in this exhibit! They have contributed an array of priceless items regarding the Lincoln assassination that you do not want to miss!

The Strawberry Festival is almost here!

On June 12-14th, the Strawberry Festival will be taking place in Crawfordsville in front of the Lane Place. The festival brings live music, pageants, tractor shows, great food, and numerous arts and crafts to the town. Bring your lawn chair and enjoy the entertainment! Also, don’t forget to stop by the Lane Place to visit the home of Henry Lane. Tours will be given during the Strawberry Festival’s hours.


Lane Place at the 2008 Strawberry Festival

If you would like to volunteer at Lane Place during the Strawberry Festival we are looking for volunteers to monitor a room for a few hours any day from June 12-14. Call (765)362-3416 or email info@lane-mchs.org if you are interested.

A Circus is Coming to Town!

The Montgomery County Historical Society will be sponsoring the Kelly Miller Circus on April 25th in Milligan Park. Crawfordsville has not had a circus for many years, but they were once quite common. In the 1920s, a circus was even planned on the grounds of Lane Place. This circus was put on by the Methodist Church. There were no professional circus performers, but they still had the common circus acts like clowns. Large circuses such as Ringling Brothers also passed through Crawfordsville. The Crawfordsville District Public Library has a great image of the Ringling Brothers Circus parade when they came to town in the early 20th century.

If you would like to attend this year’s circus, tickets can be purchased ahead of time by visiting the Montgomery County Visitors Center, the Montgomery County Historical Society at Lane Place, the Crawfordsville Parks & Recreation Department, and the Wabash Bookstore. Prior to the day of the circus tickets will be $12 for adults and $6 for children. Tickets will be $16 for adults and $8 for children if purchased on the day of the circus.