Located in Cincinnati’s West End, The Betts House is the oldest residential building in Cincinnati (it’s also the oldest brick building in Ohio). It’s a well-preserved piece of Cincinnati history, standing as a reminder of the city’s rich and storied past: Built “in the country” in 1804, the surrounding land gradually became more and more developed until the Betts House was part of the city of Cincinnati. It was also home to several generations of Betts family members, including dozens (!) of children. It’s the lives lived within the house’s brick walls that are the subject of The Betts House’s latest exhibit, A Day in the Life.
Artifacts and remembrances of the past are displayed throughout the rooms of The Betts House, giving museum-goers a sense of how 19th century families lived day-to-day. “Appliances” like cheese strainers and sausage grinders were all, of course, manual; irons were heavy and dangerous; and the intricate and cumbersome washing machine of the 1800s serves as a reminder of how difficult those moms (because, surely it was the moms) had it. Life in the 19th century wasn’t easy.
Kids will get a kick out of all the old toys, which are a far cry from the flashy electronic numbers of today. There’s something really intriguing in their simplicity, though — and my kids attentively watched demonstrations and eagerly tried each toy out for themselves.
On the second floor is a room dedicated completely to games the Betts kids would have played. These aren’t antiques, but rather modern interpretations of old-fashioned toys (think Melissa and Doug’s wooden-style toys). There are also several games, including tennis and lawn bowling, which my kids had a blast trying out. These games were something my kids could understand and relate to: strip away the flashing lights and bright colors and mass produced-ness of today’s toys and games, and they’re all just variations on the old.
A Day in the Life is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. through June 30th; you’ll want to go on a Saturday, if possible, as The Betts House is hosting weekly events and demonstrations each Saturday. Most notably, kids will love the monthly Story Times, which features different children’s classics from the 19th century, as well as accompanying craft.
A Day in the Life is living history lesson all Cincinnati kids need to experience; it’s also a great reminder to Cincinnati parents that maybe parenting doesn’t need to be quite so complicated.