Wedding history on display at Harlow House
Museum displays vintage dresses and photographs from Troutdale weddings
From intricate lace to slipper satin, a collection of vintage wedding dresses dating back to 1890 will be on display at the Harlow House Museum in Troutdale until September.
Some of the dresses belong to the Troutdale Historical Society, while most are on loan from members of the museum and local Troutdale residents who wore them.
The oldest dress is draped on a mannequin by the front door.
Worn in 1890 by the grandmother of Linda Starr Grassman, the Harlow Houses first caretaker, the wedding dress is made almost entirely of lace. Because silk rots with age, a new silk under slip was made for the dress.
Isnt it gorgeous? said Jean Hybskmann, who volunteers at the Harlow House and has included hers and her familys own wedding collection.
It is so intricate, she said.
Among a handful of fading, yet beautiful wedding gowns, are and pink and mauve bridesmaids dresses. Also on display are old wedding albums and photographs, as well as a collection of vintage dolls dressed in wedding dresses, loaned by Troutdale Historical Society member Star Williams.
The Harlow House Museum at 726 E. Historic Columbia River Highway, is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month. Group tours are available by appointment. Call the Harlow House at 503-667-8268.
The Harlow House was built in 1900 by Fred E. Harlow, son of Captain John Harlow, a Portland businessman who built his country home near the Sandy River and is considered Troutdales founder.
The two-story turn of the century home occupied by Fred Harlow until about 1915 is now a museum filled with historic household items including a collection of vintage hats and antique ruby glass.
As a teenager, Ruth Lucas (of Lucas Road in Corbett) worked as a maid for the Harlows. According to the shows curators and Ruths granddaughter, the 14-year-old hated using the sad iron to press the little Harlow girls pinafores, which were full of tedious ruffles.
Ruth married Fred Wheeler on Christmas in 1909, and the bodice of her wedding gown is on display. Her matching skirt, lost in time, was researched and remade by one of the Troutdale Historical Societys conservators to mimic the original.
Hybskmann shows me a framed wedding certificate, her grandmothers, who was also married in 1909. Back then, she said the certificates were big and fancy and decorated with colorful floral designs.
There are pictures of her mother, married in Troutdale in 1944, along with other family members and her own.
In Troutdale, she said most of the weddings were in the backyards of the bride and grooms parents.
Usually in the spring when the lilacs are in full bloom, Hybskmann said.
If you werent affiliated with a church, she said backyards were the main option when a $10,000 wedding was not.
All this talk about brides and dresses, but what about the groom?
There is a single suit on display at the Harlow House, dating back roughly to the 1930s.
The coat, black and swallow-tailed, was likely worn by a young man from the poor farm, curators said.
A black top hat made from beaver fur apparently was also the fashion for men in those days.
Other wedding dresses on display and in photographs show off the fashions of their era.
Slipper satin in the 1960s, a simple white crepe suit in 1965 and full gown extravagance in the 1980s and 90s.
So far, wedding dresses from the 2000s have yet to make their appearance.