Tonawanda News — The Long Homestead was built in 1829, the year after Benjamin and Mary Long and their five daughters, ranging from 6 months to 16 years old, arrived in Tonawanda from their home in Lancaster County, Pa. Mary Long had inherited the 200 acres at the site from her father, Christian Hershey, who purchased it in 1815.
More than 100 years later, the house was purchased in 1975 by the City of Tonawanda and restored to the way it would have been in 1929. It is furnished and operated by the Historical Society of the Tonawandas.
Its original materials are completely local to Western New York, from black walnut walls and and white oak beams, and from gray stone excavated from construction of the Erie Canal to Medina sandstone quarried and then transported on that same canal, Barnard said. While not all the furniture in the home is associated with the Long family, it mostly dates from 1790 to 1840 and could very well have been there, she said.
Besides the decorations, there are other seasonal touches, including colorful quilts and other textiles from the homestead collection, to give the illusion of comfort and warmth to the (often chilly) home.
“Just looking at the textiles, you have wonderful history,” Barnard said. “At this time of the year, I like to pull out the more colorful textiles and get a warmer feel.”
People think of the Victorians as being boring, she said, but “in reality, the colors were more garish. They had to be, to show up under the candle- and the lamplight.”
Benjamin Long’s study on the first floor is full of pieces of history including a document — a receipt from Col. John Sweeney of Tonawanda’s $1 donation to help build the Washington Monument — signed by Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John Quincy Adams; a portrait of Long in his later years; a notebook that he used; and his will.