By Ellen Ruark
Photo by Adam Fish
Denton Live Fall/Winter 2005
The beautiful Bayless-Selby House Museum offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse into Denton’s past.
Denton was still very much a frontier town when the Bayless-Selby House was in its infancy. If you’ve ever wondered what life was like around the turn of the 20th century in Denton, and you love gardens and the romantic Victorian era, don’t miss the lovely Bayless-Selby House Museum just minutes from downtown. You’ll slip back in time to a grander age in rooms so carefully restored it’s as if their owners had stepped away only moments before you arrived.
Purchased in 1884 by Samuel Bayless of Tennessee, the original farmhouse evolved over time into the graceful, two-story Queen Anne-style Victorian that became a museum in 2001. Furnished with period pieces collected from various Denton families, the museum off ers a free tour that steeps you in the details of typical middle class Victorian life, from the mousetrap in the kitchen to kerosene lighting fixtures, which were lowered from the ceiling by means of an ingenious weight system.
In the kitchen, a hive of activity recreates a typical day: wash is strung up by the stove to dry and irons warm nearby. An exquisite hand-painted porcelain collection provides a window into the arts, while the parlors depict life before television or radio with the stately 1886 piano and early Victrola. Bedrooms are quaint pictures of Victorian high fashion, with furniture suites in the Eastlake style, as well as the more ornate Renaissance Revival. On the walls, a cornucopia of rich Victorian wallpapers invites the eye, and for those who long to run their fingers over the textures, an exhibit kindly provides samples for touching.
The museum is devoted to educating its visitors. A fascinating monthly lecture series called “If Th ese Walls Could Talk” given by the museum’s manager, Robyn Lee, off ers a deeper look into daily life. On the schedule from August through December 2005, topics as diverse as sports, rose gardens, and hardware await the Victorian history buff.
Most alluring of all are the verdant Victorian gardens, meticulously designed by a landscape architect based on historical data. The peaceful pathways meander past a wishing well, gazebo, even a kitchen garden planted with the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that would have supplied a family’s table during this time period. Stop and inhale the heady scents of the antique rose garden — it’s the perfect fragrant end to a day spent in the company of Denton’s Victorians.