For decades, New Prague residents have tried to guess what was inside the rustic, split-rail house that stands in the city’s Memorial Park.
“It’s kind of like that Christmas gift that sits under the tree for two or three weeks and you wonder what it is,” said Dennis Dvorak, president of the New Prague Historical Society.
Now, that curiosity has been satisfied. The cabin was opened to the public Dec. 4 for “Christmas in the Log House,” furnished and decorated as a pioneer home would have been between 1850 and 1880.
A high school choir sang carols, while the New Prague Czech Singers, a group of traditionally dressed vocalists, also sang songs in Czech. The event coincided with the Chamber of Commerce’s annual holiday parade, tree lighting and fireworks.
Seeing the house and singers “was like a ‘wow’ moment,” said Cindy Novak, who brought friend Wayne Mader from his nursing home. “He wanted to see the Czech singers because they’re his age.”
The project couldn’t have happened without help and donations from the community, Dvorak said. He hopes it will usher in other events held in the house and foster enthusiasm for New Prague’s history among a younger generation.
“People have been very sensitive of what we were trying to do,” he said. “This is what I hoped and dreamed for — to bring all these people with special talents and interests together for the community.”
The house’s first opening was for September’s Dozinky Festival, a celebration of the town’s Czech heritage, but this time it was outfitted for Christmas.
Remembering Czech immigrants
The 300-square-foot log house originally stood in Lydia, an unincorporated community near Jordan, but was dissembled and brought to New Prague in 1956 for the city’s centennial celebration. A local resident had been born in it, creating a New Prague connection.
The house includes a mix of Czech, German and Swedish traditions and artifacts, a combination chosen to represent the city’s history but also the state’s Scandinavian roots.
At the recent event, visitors could explore the house and ask questions about dozens of items, from a horsehair coverlet to a sauerkraut cutter.
The house featured a “rope bed” with a corn-husk mattress in one corner, a cradle, a spinning wheel and a secretary containing several tintype photographs. On the other side sat a dry sink, a table and chairs and a working stove. A firearm and a hatchet, both essential to frontier life, hung on the wall, Dvorak said.
Many of the antiques were donated. Joan Winn, an antique dealer, provided a meat rack and horse feeder, along with kitchen accessories like a jelly stirrer and a wooden butter mold.
“It’s really pretty accurate,” she said of the home.
Future events are taking shape, Dvorak said. In April, sixth-graders will visit to learn about life in the mid-19th century. For Memorial Day, the home will host a Civil War-era event, Dvorak said, and this summer, Eagle Scouts will build a garage nearby to house a collection of farm tools.
Seventh-grader Lucy Kallal is a fifth-generation Czech-American. “I wanted to come to see everything and learn something,” she said. “I like to know about the town.”