It’s Never Too Cold for Ice Cream

I scream. You scream…

Did you know that ice cream can be dated all the way back to the second century B.C.? That might sound unbelievable, but it’s very true. We might not think of ice cream as something ancient, but it is, and it’s also quite famous. Alexander the Great enjoyed it. Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar sent people to retrieve it. Marco Polo returned to France from the Far East with a recipe for what is now sherbet. During the 17th century, Charles I regularly had “Cream Ice”. George Washington spent $200 on ice cream once, and Thomas Jefferson apparently had an 18-step recipe for ice cream. History has proven that everyone wants and love ice cream.

Now, ice cream is sold everywhere and inexpensive. If I wanted, I could go to the nearest gas station or Walmart right now and get any kind of ice cream that I want. It’s that simple. However, this wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that ice cream became widely available to the general public. Once it did, ice cream turned into an overnight sensation, still being a popular dessert for everyone. Whether it’s classics like vanilla and chocolate or flavors like mint chocolate and rocky road, everyone loves ice cream.

Today (Saturday) at the Barker Mansion, we are having an event called Winter Ice Cream Social. People that come for the event will learn more about ice cream and it’s history. Also, people participating will have the chance to make their own ice cream and eat it too. It will be highly entertaining. Read more below to learn how the event went and hear from some of the people that stopped by.

For more about the history of ice cream and other interesting facts, visit here: The History of Ice Cream

We all scream for ice cream!

The Ice Cream Social was a thunderous success. We had a lot of families stop by, try some ice cream, and make their own. People of all ages, an infant to the elderly, came together to make some wholesome ice cream. As people finished their homemade ice cream, I went around and spoke with a handful of them. I wish I had the opportunity to talk with everyone, but we had so many people that there was so many people I, one person, could speak to.

Irregardless, I went around and spoke with some families. One family, Kelly and her son Mason, made another visit to the mansion. They really enjoyed making their own ice cream. Mason found it really cool, though it was tough to keep shaking the bags of ice. A great thing I learned about Mason was that he loves history. So, the Ice Cream Social was a blend of two great things. His mom, Kelly, thought it was the best of both worlds for him. They believed the event was a great idea, always looking for fun ways to learn more and more about history.

Families and friends learning to make some ice cream.

Another family that visited for the event consisted of Carol, Rachel, Bella, Katey, and Jenna. Carol and Rachel have visited the mansion many times and they thought the Ice Cream Social was a fantastic idea, especially for the kids. They found it be a great way to show the kids a historical site like the Barker Mansion while also giving them something fun to do. It worked since all three girls, Bella, Katey, and Jenna, had a blast eating and making ice cream. Since everyone was able to explore the first floor of the mansion, the three girls walked around and thought the different rooms were really cool. Katey, who has visited the mansion before, said her favorite room in the entire mansion is Catherine Barker’s room.

Dan, Kathy, Joan, and Emilia all came to visit the mansion. After talking to people, it became a pattern for many that this was the first time they were visiting. A lot of them had wanted to visit in the past, but never had the time. Whether it was just driving past or hearing about an event, many people had made it their plan to visit at some point. Dan and his family were some of those people, though his mother Joan had visited in the past. Once again, they all enjoyed the Ice Cream Social, thinking it was a great learning experience. A big reason for the visit, for Dan, was to learn more about the Barker family and their connection to Michigan City. It’s sometimes easy to forget about the historical roots of a city. For Dan and his family, they were able to learn about the history of their city and enjoy ice cream they made. Emilia outstandingly loved making ice cream and had a lot of fun with it as well.

Everyone learning just how easy it is to make ice cream.
Preparing the bags of soon-to-be ice cream.








I also got to talk to Sai and Rohini who brought their daughter Aditi to the event. As everyone else, they liked the event and were really fond of being able to walk around the first floor. They were also able to go outside and see the garden. They thought the mansion was beautiful, inside and out. Sai mentioned how he has driven past the mansion many times and wanted to come for a visit. After doing so today, he loved all the things he saw and all the knowledge of the mansion and its history he absorbed.

The last family I had the pleasure to speak with included grandparents Mel and Pat, their daughter Pam, and Pam’s daughter Jessica. They loved being involved with the actual process of making ice cream. Pam told me repeatedly that she plans to make more homemade ice cream at home with Jessica. This visit to the mansion was a first for everyone. They marveled in its beauty and were astonished by how well preserved the mansion is. As many other first time visitors, all four hope to visit again to take a tour of the mansion and see the entirety of it all.

Age doesn’t matter when making ice cream.
Enjoying some homemade ice cream.








Overall, our Winter Ice Cream Social was a success. We saw a lot of families come in and have a wonderful time making and eating ice cream. For many, this was a first-time visit, and they truly enjoyed the event and viewings of the different rooms on the first floor. It’s always great to see people coming out to learn a bit of history with their children. In the end, people of all ages were able to learn some history, of ice cream and Michigan City, while snacking on vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.

Miguel Valencia

P.S. If you’d like to know how to make your own ice cream, feel free to check out the recipe we ued – Ice Cream Recipe Handout


Sensible, Glamourous Fashion

Fashion is a key part of any era and generation. Every generation, decade, has it’s particular look. Fashion of the twenties is very different from the fifties. The eighties and nineties had their distinct looks. Even fashion now in 2015/16 is quite different from the early 2000’s. When thinking about fashion, the first words to pop up in anyone’s head are beauty and style. To be “in fashion” means to have a keen sense of style, to be beautiful, and to have access to money. Now, money is the most important part of fashion. If you have ever walked into a designer store then you might have been turned off by the prices. It will cost you to be in style and to have the highest of fashion. The Barkers were people who had the money to be in style.

In the Barker Mansion, on the third floor, there is a display for a gown worn by Mr. Barker’s sister, Anna Ogden. When I first looked around the mansion, this display immediately caught my attention. I’m not a huge fashion buff or anything like that, but I know elegance when I see it. There are many fascinating artifacts on the third floor of the mansion, but Anna Ogden’s gown is a true sight to behold.

Anna Ogden Gown
Anna Ogden’s gorgeous gown.

As you’ll see, the dress is quite long, going well past the ankles and covering where her feet would be. Now, when we think of fashion during the nineteenth century an immediate thought is that a gown like Anna Ogden’s is very modest. From the neck down, the gown covers the body and doesn’t show a whole lot of skin. During this time period the social norms made it so women needed to dress conservatively  and modestly. It’s well known that the 1920’s introduced a more breathable dress, but gowns in the nineteenth century weren’t only about modesty.

In “Victorian England: The Horse-Drawn Society”, F. M. L. Thompson writes about how horses were everywhere in the nineteenth century. Horses were the main mode of transportation, either by riding or pulling a carriage. With all these horses roaming around in towns and cities, there ended up being a lot of horse droppings all over the streets. According to Thompson, “1830’s English towns had to cope with something like 3 million tons of droppings every year, and that by 1900 they had more like 10 million tons on their hands.” This only became a bigger problem when there weren’t enough people able to clean it all up. How did the most fashionable of people cope with this problem? How could they continue to look in style if they had to worry about horse droppings all over the streets? The answer is simple-money.

AnnaOgden Gown 2
Anna Ogden wearing her gown.

Now, horse droppings was more of a problem for English towns, but American streets weren’t that much better. Sidewalks, the concrete kind of today, weren’t common everywhere during the nineteenth century and pathways were mainly just dirt. With that knowledge, it was very easy to dirty clothing and footwear when walking around. If you were wearing high fashion clothing then this would cause you a great deal of concern. Thompson points out “that the Victorians of both sexes, if they could afford it, never ventured out into the streets unless wearing ankle-length outer garments or other enveloping protective clothing, which had very necessary anti-splash functions.” A key phrase here is “if they could afford it” and that’s because money was key to making sure stylish clothing stayed in good shape. The Barkers having immense wealth allowed Anna Ogden to have the necessary functions on her gown to keep it looking nice. You’ll notice on the gown it’s mink tail fringe. It looks very lovely, but it also serves a purpose. Fringe helps repel water from wearers, and the mink tail fringe on the gown helped sweep the street in front of Anna Ogden at all times.

It’s actually very interesting to think about. When I think of fashion today, the clothing seems to only worry about looking good. It’s sole purpose is to make the wearer look magnificent. Most fashion designers don’t think about implementing a function to protect the clothing or keeping the wearer clean. Granted, we don’t have large amounts of horses roaming around cities, and the streets are relatively cleaner than they were back in the nineteenth century. However, I feel many people, men and women, would enjoy suits and dresses that are fashionable and have a protective function as well. Now, this isn’t me demanding the clothing of the nineteenth century return (no one should have to go through the torture of corsets), but there are parts of the clothing that are fascinating.

In the end, Anna Ogden’s gown is beautiful. It’s great to look at, and truly encapsulates a piece of nineteenth century fashion. Yes, women’s clothing of the time was meant to be conservative and modest, but the fashion also made sure the wearer wasn’t getting dirty every time she walked outside. As Thompson states, “To suppose, as some have done, that such fashions were dictated purely by modesty, or that their primary or sole purpose was to muffle sexual excitement, is to forget that no one could set foot in a Victorian street without encountering dozens and dozens of horses.” It’s true, no one wants horse droppings all over their clothing. That’s the last thing anyone wants.

Miguel Valencia


Throwback Games for Play

Throwback to Checkers, Jacks, Marbles, and Pick-up Sticks

I know it isn’t Thursday, but today at the Barker Mansion we are having an event that takes us back to a simpler time of playing games. Nowadays, when people hear the word “games” many will think of Mario, or Call of Duty, or a plethora of other video games. Some people will even think of board games like Clue or Monopoly. However, none of those are what we are planning for today. Today, people who visit the mansion have the chance to play the same kind of games a child like Catherine Barker would play when she was growing up. These games include marbles, jacks, pick-up sticks, and checkers.

I’m young, but I remember playing all of these games growing up. I remember how much fun these games were even though they are very simple. It wouldn’t surprise me if my generation was the last to really play these kind of games. Many children today have probably never played or even heard of these games (besides checkers). These were some of the most popular games when Catherine Barker was a child, but now they sound more like relics. However, these games are the talk of the town for today. Below you can read about the some experiences people had and learn how games children play today compare and contrast with those that were played for the event.

We had a handful of families arrive and partake in playing the games. One of the most popular games was pick-up sticks. I believe its simplicity made it easy for everyone, irregardless of age, to play. I had the opportunity to go around and speak a bit with each family. Across the board, the families enjoyed themselves, the children especially having fun. My theory that checkers is still a game many children play held true as well.

Playing checkers and pick-up sticks with the whole family

One family saw grandparents bring their three grandchildren, Nate, Jessie, and Natalie, to the event. When I asked about their time they told me that they were having a lot of fun. The children really liked playing pick-up sticks and checkers. Pick-up sticks saw everyone sharply keeping an eye on the sticks, quickly pointing out if any extra sticks moved. To me, the most interesting part of this entire event was how games then compared and contrasted with games today. When I asked Nate, Jessie, and Natalie what games they normally play I got interesting answers. They told they play Monopoly, cards, Connect Four, and video games. Their grandparents said they also spend a good amount of time on iPad’s and computers. I found it intriguing that there was an even mix of “traditional” games (Monopoly) and “new” games (video games). Their grandfather told me that part of the reason they brought the children was to show them how to have fun without electronics. I found this noble, not because electronics are bad, but for the fact that these are fun games that people should play. It was also nice to hear that all three of them would play these games again if they had them at home.

Learning the game of marbles

Another group saw two friends bring their children, Dakota and Liliana, to have some fun. They played many games and enjoyed the popcorn and cocoa. It was adorable to watch the children really compete. When asked what kind of games Liliana likes to play at home, her mother told that Candy Land and Jenga are two that she plays a lot. Dakota’s mother said that Stratego is a popular one as well as other board games. When I first thought about the idea of games played today, video games kept popping up. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it does seem like every child has some video games. However, Liliana and Dakota were the children that video games weren’t mentioned for. Now, age might play a factor in that, but it’s still exciting that they are mainly playing board games at home.

Steady hands and concentration are definitely needed

Another family that joined in on the fun saw a mother and father bring their son, Sean. The cool thing about Sean was that he had already played all the games, but jacks. His mother told that he was very excited to finally play jacks. They all had a lot of fun, and Sean definitely looked in his element when it came to pick-up sticks. Games he regularly plays are Disney Infinity (video game), The Game of Life, and Jenga. Once again, there’s this even balance of “traditional” and “new” when it comes to playing games. I remember growing up and playing the same games as all these children. Pick-up sticks was always a favorite, but I also loved playing Candy Land and Jenga like those that I talked to.

Always go for the easy sticks

As nice as it was to speak and learn the perspective of children, I also had the opportunity to talk with an older family that decided to play some games. The parents, Ed and Eve, once visited the mansion shortly after the Purdue years and today they had their daughters, Polly and Susan, with them for some games of checkers and pick-up sticks. All of them remembered playing the same games when they were all growing up. Polly and Susan said that jacks was a little outdated though. Susan has children of her own (around my age) and mentioned how they grew up playing games like Uno, Boggle, Jenga, and Parcheesi. Once again, I remembered how I also grew up playing Uno and Boggle. Uno was definitely my favorite card game.

Fun games for any age

Susan and I then started talking about how much has changed in such a short amount of time. We talked about how her two oldest children and I didn’t grow up with cell phones and when we did finally have them, they were basically for calls and texts. She then mentioned how her youngest has practically grew up with a smart phone (possibly an iPhone or some type of Android) in hand. There’s only about a six year gap there, but a lot has happened in that small gap. However, where technology is always changing quickly, games seem to have a more slow burn effect.

As stated before, I remember growing up and playing the same games that we had for the event. Some of the children have even played these games prior. Even if they didn’t before, they all enjoyed the games. This is interesting because I thought many children have just moved on to playing mainly video games, thinking older games to be outdated. While this holds some truth, many children are still playing games like checkers, and pick-up sticks, and board games. If I learned anything today it’s that while the times may change, and change they will, a good game of marbles and jacks will always be fun for everyone.


Miguel Valencia


There and Back Again


Currently, we live in an amazing time. To have a device which fits in your pocket that allows you to make calls, use the internet, watch TV, write, take photos, and take videos (on top of many other applications) is truly incredible. Think about how we live. A TV in every room. Everyone has a computer/laptop. Video game consoles only sell more and more as time goes on. Houses are filled with electronics. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s quite different to how people lived in the past. If we go back to the early 1900’s, when one Catherine Barker grew up, we see a very different lifestyle and living arrangement.

The Barker Mansion, in Michigan City, Indiana, is a piece of history where people can visit and see a world from long ago. The mansion belonged to the Barker family, and eventually given to the city of Michigan City from Catherine Barker. Now, anyone and everyone  can step inside and be transported back in time. Just from the exterior it becomes obvious that the building feels displaced in time. It’s uniquely different from other buildings surrounding it. While the rest of the world advances on, the Barker Mansion is kept in its particular time period. The late 1800’s and early 1900’s don’t sound that long ago (only one and two centuries), but rapid development truly creates a larger sense of time. Where now it’s all about the digital age, the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were times of high art and high fashion. The Barker family took part in this lifestyle of art and fashion, creating a truly magnificent home to live in.

From the fireplace that greets you when you enter to the many sculptures and bust throughout, the Barker Mansion gives this fantastic visual of the past. When traveling up to the third floor, it becomes more apparent how involved with art and fashion the Barker family was. Dresses, jewelry, and wigs are all on display. Not one but two pianos are out for viewing. Music, especially classical, is considered one of the highest forms of art and The Barker family definitely enjoyed it. The garden outside the mansion is beautiful and adds to the level of elegance the mansion has.

The elegance of the mansion isn’t the only thing that makes it unique. When walking through the second floor, the entire layout of how the Barker family lived is drastically different than now. Many rooms are connected (allowing for great ease of movement when doing a tour) and create this interesting flow  and simplicity to the floor design. I honestly question why modern homes don’t follow a similar pattern. Each room can be entered through the main hallway. However, being able to start in one bedroom at one side of the mansion and end up in another room on the other side without using the hallway is awesome. It’d be great to have a house that has this type of room design. Another interesting aspect is what a room entails. Think of your room right now. You have your bed, a desk where your computer is, possibly a TV, and maybe even a table. You might have a slightly different setup, but it’s similar. Bedrooms nowadays are more small living quarters, like a dorm room in college. However, when walking through the bedrooms in the Barker Mansion, the bedrooms are only that, rooms with beds. For Catherine Barker, she had her bedroom and  a connected room where she would play. Her mother also had a bedroom while a connected room gave her a desk and a sitting area. I remember always playing in my room when I was a child, and now I have my desk where I do my work in my bedroom. It isn’t a drastic difference, but it’s interesting to think about since we continue to fit more and more into smaller spaces.

When looking through the mansion, it’s easy to notice the type of toys a child like Catherine Barker played with. Today, more and more children are seen playing video games and using iPads. Once again, this isn’t a bad thing, but even from my own childhood it’s a big change. I remember more playing with toys and using my imagination to entertain myself. When seeing the toys that are in the mansion, I feel that kids from the early 1900’s did the same. They had their favorite toys that they always wanted to play with and used their imagination to make each playtime unique and different. In the playroom next to Catherine Barker’s room, there is a doll that Catherine most likely played with a lot growing up. Even though I grew up in the nineties and had far different toys, I always seem relate and reminisce when a stumble by one of the many toys in the mansion.

The Barker Mansion a unique place that allows you to see life from a different time. Being able to explore allows you to see so many different things that you don’t really see anymore today. It’s fascinating and makes you wonder. It makes you think, and it might even make you remember.

Miguel Valencia