When kids visit Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park, they can now stack wood in the fireplace, pretend to cook over an open fire, or examine cooking utensils from the early 1800s.
The new opportunities for educational play are thanks to a massive overhaul of the 19th Century museum’s kitchen.
Funded by the New York Community Trust and the Historic House Trust, the $7,500 renovation changed the area from a place to look at to a place for kids to play.
“We really wanted to give them a vibrant hands-on space where they could play and pretend to cook while comparisons with our kitchens today,” said museum director Elyse Newman.
The exhibit, which opened March 15, was designed by Chris Rubin and constructed by Francesco Casini, who had to contend with a unique challenge: Nothing could be attached to the walls floor or ceiling. Instead the pair used a series of tension rods to keep the exhibit in place.
“I was surprised by just how complicated of a structure you have to build when you’re creating an exhibit in a historic house,” said Newman.
In addition to adding a table to play on, shockingly realistic pretend food and additional kitchen utensils, the new exhibit also includes depictions of 19th Century dishes and cooking implements painted on the wall by illustrator Chris Bonnell. The idea behind the illustrations is to include items that the kids couldn’t safely play with, such as china dishes, a food grinder and an implement for slicing vegetables.
Right now the illustrations include fall and winter items such as candles and a pumpkin. Later in the spring, the panel will be switched out with one depicting such things as flowers, blackberries and tomatoes.
The illustrations are also there to make sure the exhibit looked “pretend enough,” said Newman.
"The old kitchen looked too real," said Newman (see photo of former kitchen in gallery). “We wanted to let people know that they are in a place for play."
“Parents come in and they say to their kids ‘Don’t touch anything.’ But then we are able to say, ‘You can touch everything,’” she added.
While at Lefferts House, visitors should also visit the new exhibit, “,” on the second floor.
Lefferts Historic House is located just inside the Willink entrance to Prospect Park, at the intersection of Empire Boulevard with Flatbush and Ocean avenues. It is open 12-3:30 on Saturday and Sunday and is free.