This week’s Spin Cycle is all about technology.
I love technology – it makes the life I live possible. My kitchen is full of some of my favorite technology – my dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, stand mixer, food processor, ice cream maker (just to name a few). I would not be employed without it; since we develop software for a living, it is absolutely necessary. And, of course, there would be no blog without modern technology.
Living less than a 30 minute drive from the largest Amish settlements in the world, though, gives me a chance to see – and appreciate – those who chose to live without many of the conveniences provided by the modern technology most of us take so for granted. I find the Amish culture simply fascinating, and the people themselves are warm and friendly. We make several trips a year to Holmes County, sometimes just to drive around and enjoy the sights, often filled with tiny horse-drawn buggies and Amish farmers working in their fields – sans tractors – but often, believe or not, to shop.
Lehman’s Hardware is almost always at the heart of our shopping excursions, and for good reason. Founded in 1955, Jay Lehman opened a small hardware store in Kidron, Ohio to supply the Amish with many of the things that were disappearing in a post-World War II era of automobiles , central heat and television. In the 55 years it’s been open, it has developed and expanded into a 32,000 square foot “low tech superstore.” Indeed, Lehaman’s Hardware is the largest purveyor of historical technology in the world.
And they let you take pictures.
Lehman’s has several entrances, but the West entrance is the one fronting their rear parking lot, and usually the one we use.
This windmill and gazebo sit next to the entrance – the entire outside of the store is studded with the quaint and old fashioned. But don’t let this modest looking entrance fool you, the place is absolutely massive.
The store consists of four pre-Civil War era buildings, the largest (as far as I can tell) is the barn, the entrance of which is posted above. The view here looks down the main corridor with it’s high ceilings crisscrossed with large, wooden beams (and yeah, a fake pigeon or two).
Every room and passageway in the place is lined with shelves way above patron’s heads that hold treasures of a bygone era: here we have what seem to be several old ice-boxes, a washing machine and I’m not sure what that thing to the far left is. But it’s old.
Need a butter churn? They’ve got lots of them!
How about a hand plow?
Or some lovely, yet functional, oil lanterns?
Or perhaps an old-fashioned, cast-iron, wood burning cooking stove. Yes, the price tag reads $5,250 – no one ever said this old fashioned technology was cheap. I paid considerably less for my modern gas range – which I imagine will break or wear out many years before this baby does.
Of course, not everything is so arcane that the average schmoe off the street wouldn’t buy it. Lehman’s is first and foremost a hardware store with a huge selection of the things that most hardware stores carry – hammers and saws and nails and screws; and if you can buy a pitchfork and a scythe there, too, well – hey, historical technology! They also have what I consider the absolute best part of the place: a large and varied housewares department.
I’ve bought every piece of cast iron cookware I own at Lehman’s, including my enameled cast iron – and a wok!
You can also buy edible goodies there, many of them handmade by the Amish and some produced specifically for the store.
These pictures only represent a fraction of what you can find here – there are cookbooks featuring Amish and Mennonite recipes and old-fashioned toys and hand-cranked ice cream makers and the list goes on and on and on. You can literally go in there and not come out for hours, there’s so much to look at. Oftentimes, you’ll find Amish craftsman in the parking lot, selling handmade goods such as baskets and there’s a flea market right next door that operates on the weekends in warm weather. If you’re very lucky, you’ll visit on a Saturday when there’s a farm and livestock auction going on – Amish buggies for as far as the eye can see.
If you should ever find yourself in northeast Ohio, make time to drive to Holmes County and visit Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron. It’s a fascinating and fun experience.