The History of Love at the House that Love Built

The History of Love at the House that Love Built

Here, newlywed Nancy Sutcliffe, whose family resided at Hearthside from 1926 until 1955, is pictured tossing her bouquet to her eager wedding guests sometime in the early fifties. Photo courtesy of the Hearthside House.
By John Kiernan

If you’re getting married, it doesn’t hurt to learn a little bit about the history of the institution. This weekend, the Hearthside House Museum in Lincoln is putting on a special exhibit about the history of marriage, bridal fashion and tradition. If you’re planning a wedding with a more vintage look, you may even pick up a few ideas during your visit.

When it comes to romance, Hearthside’s past can’t be beat. From the story of its creation to the lives of its final residents, the home has a history of love. The house was built in 1810 by Stephen Hopkins Smith under unlikely circumstances. Kathy Hartley, president of Friends of Hearthside, described to Engaged the story of how the home earned the nickname “The House That Love Built.”

Stephen Hopkins Smith was from a farming family in rural Lincoln, and during most of his youth he lived a simple life in the countryside. Later, he was educated and apprenticed in Providence, giving him a glimpse of the sophisticated, urban social class to which he was a stranger. It was during his time in Providence that he first encountered the love of his life. They were from different worlds, but he hoped to one day make her his bride.

“She was looking for a rich man to build her a home,” says Hartley. Smith bought a lottery ticket and through either sheer luck or divine intervention, he won $40,000 (about $9 million by today’s standards). With the money, he began secretly building a mansion down the street from his rural home. After four years of construction, he finally unveiled his creation to his beloved. In a corny romance novel, this is the part where she leaps into his arms and they promptly marry. Unfortunately for Smith, his story didn’t play out so smoothly. “She was a city girl, so she didn’t want it,” Hartley says. “He was heartbroken and never lived in the house or married.”


Although Smith’s story was one of heartbreak, the final residents of the house, the Mowbrays, had better luck. Penelope and Andrew Mowbray knew each other since they were eleven and apparently fostered quite the romance. When she was sixteen they eloped and began a life together. “When they saw the house, they fell in love with it,” says Hartley. They lived there for forty years until Andrew’s passing in 1996.

Hartley believes that the home has earned its nickname. In addition to the house’s sentimental history, Hartley says that psychic mediums visiting the home feel only love and warmth. If there are any ghosts at Hearthside, they aren’t of the hostile variety.

This weekend’s exhibit at Hearthside will feature a beautiful collection of wedding attire that aims to inspire local brides who are hoping to plan their own vintage or historic-themed nuptials. Some of the items that will be on display have even been donated directly to the museum by relatives of past owners of Hearthside. Visitors will be free to browse exhibits on their own or consult one of the knowledgeable guides throughout the building. The guides will even be attired in historically accurate costumes for greater authenticity. If you want to learn about the home and the history of marriage, make sure to stop by and experience Hearthside’s Vintage Wedding Exhibit.

Address: 677 Great Road, Lincoln

Date: Saturday, June 11­­ and Sunday, June 12

Time: 1 to 4 PM

Admission Price: $8 for adults, free for children ten and younger


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