When Catharine Bettner built a new home in 1891, she wanted it “to be noticed,” according to Lynn Voorheis, museum curator of historic structures and collections at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, which oversees Heritage House. Whether standing on the street on in the front doorway, guest to the Heritage House can’t help but notice the home’s scale and beauty.
Unlike many homes of the era, the entryway and reception area of Catharine Bettner’s home were uncharacteristically large, “anticipating the 20th-century notion of a front door opening directly onto a living room,” according to the Heritage House Web site. The settee and matching armchair “may be late Victorian English versions of the Louis XVI-inspired Belter style of dark mahogany-stained wood and with new upholstery,” says museum curator Lynn Vooheis.
Guests were greeted by Catharaine’s servants at the door in the entry hall and escorted into an adjacent social room, such as the parlor or music room, while they waited for their hostess to receive them.
“Mrs. Bettner published her receiving hours in the local newspapers,” Vooheis says. “Her house servant would have accepted visitors’ calling cards and placed them on the entry table, and probably would have offered them tea or coffee while they waited.”
The servant would have also been responsible for lighting the fire and attending to any other duties necessary to ensure that both Catharine and her guests were comfortable during the visit.
While most homes of the era had relatively small reception areas, the Heritage House boasts a larger, more open oak-paneled entry hall that includes an exquisite fireplace with spiral columns and a superbly carved-wood surround consisting of Romanesque and Jacobean elements.
Adjacent to the reception hall is the music room, which would have been virtually de rigueur for someone in Catharine Bettner’s position, since providing suitable entertainment for guests was essential. In fact, according to the Heritage House Web site, it was “a duty of the hostess to invite a guest to play or sing.” Though not original to the house, a lovely c. 1890 Weber Company ebony upright piano takes center stage against a richly textured wall in the music room; it is still used today during special events at the museum.
For more information about the programs at Heritage House Museum, please contact Lynn Vooheis at email@example.com or visit riversideca.gov/museum/heritage.asp.
By Rebecca J. Razo
Photography by Jaimee Itagaki
Styled by Merrie Destefano