Museé de Venoge, a living history museum, celebrates the French-Swiss heritage in the forms of trades, foodways, and gardening around Vevay (in Hoosierland, that’s pronounced VeeVee). The site features a rare landmark of the earliest settlements in Switzerland County, a small house estimated to be more than 210 years old, ancient for Indiana. And at the end of the month a new Program and Exhibit Center debuts at the rural site.
In the 1990s the diminutive cottage was targeted for fire department training. Deteriorated to the point of near-collapse, the house looked like perfect fodder for a good burn before an all-volunteer group stepped in and embarked on restoration.
The nonprofit adopted the name Museé de Venoge for its location on Indian Creek (renamed “Venoge” by the area’s Swiss settlers after a river in their native country).
The National Register-listed house is a rare example of the distinctively French post-on-sill (poteaux-sur-solle) style of construction. The method uses a combination of beamed bracing and stone or brick nogging to build sturdy walls. Associated with early French culture in the lower Mississippi Valley, Venoge is the only known example this far east in the U.S.
On June 30, the site will host a two-day Independence Day celebration,“July 4th, 1815”, inspired by the writings of Jean Jacques (John James) Dufour, a Swiss immigrant to Switzerland County in the early 1800s. Dufour described a celebration and barbecue he attended on July 4th, 1801 in Kentucky, a tradition he brought with him to Switzerland County.
Beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday morning and continuing through Sunday, visitors can explore the grounds, check out the museum’s new barn, which serves as the Program and Exhibit Center, and mingle with reenactors from nine states, who unite to take visitors back to 1815. Enjoy early trade demonstrations, period music, and even a recreated pub — the Applecore Inn — complete withSwitzerland County wine. Get there by lunchtime for the 18-shot salute at 1 p.m. each day — one shot for each state in 1815. General admission is free.
For an exclusive immersive experience, visitors can join an ox roast on Saturday night, featuring special orations, toasts, and dancing. Tickets are very limited, so grab them now in person — $15 for adults — at the Switzerland County Historical Society, or call 812-593-5726.
Musee de Venoge hosts two other large events annually, the Rural Heritage Tour in October and Country Christmas in December. Both of these events also feature another historic Switzerland County site, Thiebaud Farmstead. If you miss this event – and you shouldn’t — tours of the house are available by appointment. For more information, visit www.venoge.org.
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