How to Visit a Historic House (Especially Locust Grove!)

One of the great pleasures of working at a historic house is the opportunity to welcome visitors from all over the world. During our very busy summer, our guests came to Locust Grove from as far away as Australia and as nearby as just across Blankenbaker Lane. We are always overjoyed to see you, whether it’s your first visit or your seventeenth, and we look forward to making you part of our family and showing off our house. If you stay with us long enough, we will tell you everything we know about the Croghans and Clarks, lives of Locust Grove’s enslaved people, Louisville’s growth as  a city, Kentucky’s significance as a state, and the work that has gone into restoring and preserving the house and grounds for you and future generations to enjoy. Many of our visitors are veterans of historic house tours, but some may be unfamiliar with the ways a historic house is different from a more traditional museum, including the students on school field trips who will file through the halls this fall.  When it comes to our house tours, our staff, desk volunteers, and docents who act as our tour guides want to make sure you feel welcome from the moment you walk in the door until the moment you take your leave. It’s especially important to us to give you the best experience we can! I asked our wonderful volunteers and staff members for their suggestions on how to make the most of a visit to a historic house like Locust Grove. Here’s what they had to say.

Rosalind and Lynn, two of the friendly faces who might greet you when you arrive!

Rosalind and Lynn, two of the friendly faces who might greet you when you arrive!

  1. If you are on a schedule, let us know when you arrive. Ask how long the tour will last, and tell us if you need to leave by a certain time. This will allow us to tailor your visit to you, and will also alert your docent to your time constraints so you can enjoy the tour and not be checking your watch. If it looks like you might not be able to go on the tour, we are happy to direct you to our museum gallery, set up a viewing of the film, and provide you with a map of our grounds and outbuildings so you can see everything but the house before you have to hit the road.
Our volunteers, like Tim and Nancy, are always happy to help!

Our volunteers, like Tim and Nancy, are always happy to help!

2.Call ahead if you are bringing a big group or may need special accommodations. Locust Grove is a three-story brick house built in 1792. Some of the rooms are small, and the only way to access the upper floors is climbing a staircase that shows the quirks of its age. If you are concerned about accessing the house, please call us so we can talk you through a visit to Locust Grove and tell you what a visit will entail so you can be informed. Our visitor’s center is fully accessible, and we are happy to provide assistance in any way we can. If you take the tour, but choose to stay on the first floor of the house, we are prepared to offer you photographs of the upper floors and to talk you through the rest of the tour. If you are bringing a group of ten or more, we ask that you call ahead to schedule your visit in advance so we can provide adequate docents to make your visit as pleasant as possible. No one wants to be crammed uncomfortably into one of the smaller rooms straining to hear! At Locust Grove, we endeavor to provide a personal, engaging experience, and we will do everything in our power to make that happen!

This August, Alba celebrated 15 years of working as a weekend manager at Locust Grove! Congratulations, Alba! We are so fortunate to count you as a part of our family!

This August, Alba celebrated 15 years of working as a weekend manager at Locust Grove! Congratulations, Alba! We are so fortunate to count you as a part of our family!

3. Speak up and ask questions! If you have something you’re just itching to ask, please do! Want to know about the purpose of the fancy copper basin in the master bedroom? Confused about why only six places are set in the dining room for a family of ten? Wondering about the significance of preserving the house in the first place? Ask us, ask us! Our most frequently asked question is, “Where is the bathroom?”, and we’re always happy to answer anything you might want to know, from what an enslaved person’s daily life might entail or where you can buy wallpaper like the pattern in the Grand Parlor. Although we hope you’ll return to visit, this might be your only chance to visit Locust Grove, and we’d hate for you to leave with lingering questions, even if they seem mundane to you. Tell your docent if you have a particular interest in something so your tour can be tailored to you. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll look it up! 

Rodger is one of our newest docents. Welcome Rodger!

Rodger is one of our newest docents. Welcome Rodger!

4. This is someone else’s house. One of the biggest differences between a historic house and a more traditional museum is the way we display our collection of items from the past. At Locust Grove, every building, every inch of carpet, wallpaper, and woodwork, and every item displayed in the house, from a thimble in the parlor to the punkah in the dining room is a part of our collection, and should be treated gently and with the utmost respect. You guessed it–this means please don’t touch. The furnishings in the house all date to the time period during which the Croghans were living at Locust Grove, all the woodwork is original, and the carpets and wallpapers have been carefully designed and produced to evoke those of times gone by. If your docent hands you some soap or a ball made from a pig’s bladder, consider it an invitation and by all means, touch! Otherwise, we ask you to keep your hands to yourselves and be aware of the age of your surroundings. For this reason, it’s especially important for you to stay with your tour guide. We welcome you to take photographs of anything you’d like to remember–just please turn off the flash. Thank you!

Bob Boone and Bob Pilkington always bring their sense of fun to work.

Bob B. and Bob P. always bring their sense of fun to work.

5. Keep an open mind. All of our docents have worked very hard to perfect their tours, and each of them have their own personal flair. The one thing each docent has in common is a desire to spark your imagination so you can understand the life lived at Locust Grove before any of us ever stepped over the doorstep. Be prepared to hear something new! Each docent’s tour is different, and even in history, we are constantly learning new things, so information is updated. Your curiosity by coming to visit and asking questions absolutely helps us to learn more about the place we love.

Our volunteers come from all ages and backgrounds, and often have special skills.

Our volunteers come from all ages and backgrounds, and often have special skills. Here, Carol, Kelli, Jocelyn, Heather, and Noah demonstrate an 18th century game.

Irene often interprets the crafts of dyeing, spinning, and weaving for school visits.

Irene often interprets the crafts of dyeing, spinning, and weaving for school visits.

Visitors like you are the reason we preserve and interpret Locust Grove and share the stories of all the people who lived here. We welcome your compliments, your suggestions, your concerns, and of course, your questions. Please stay in touch with us! I like to tell my tour guests that the reasons for using the back door are twofold. One: The front door sticks. Two: The back door was the door commonly used by members of the family and household. After you visit Locust Grove, we consider you part of our family and our story, so we encourage you to take ownership of your visit to Locust Grove. We cannot wait to see you again this fall!

With my sincere good wishes,

Hannah

P.S. To receive updates on all the goings-on at Locust Grove, why not join our e-mailing list? Sign-up HERE to receive monthly updates! Or if you foresee numerous visits to Locust Grove in your future, why not become a member? Friends of Locust Grove receive free admission, invitations to members-only events, a 10% discount in the Museum Store, a copy of our quarterly newsletter, The Grove Gazette and much, much more! More information can be found HERE.

You can also follow Locust Grove on the web by subscribing to the blog on the right, and following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. (We’re everywhere!)

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It’s Been a Long, Fun Summer

Well, my friends, our summer at Locust Grove has come to an end and we are looking forward to a busy and beautiful autumn! From Independence Day to the Historic Wedding to Hemp Festival to Cultural Pass to our daily tours, we enjoyed seeing each and every one of you who visited with us this summer! You can relive  the events of the summer in the blog archives, but here are some highlights.
Over five hundred children and their parents joined us for Cultural Pass on Sundays and Mondays to tour the house, check out the outbuildings, wander the grounds, and play games with us! A special thanks to Heather, Noah, and Jocelyn H., who volunteered their time and expertise to inform and entertain our guests every weekend this summer! Noah and Jocelyn portrayed Charles Croghan and Eloise Bullitt and engaged our guests in nineteenth-century games and conversation topics while Heather loaned her extensive games collection and monitored many a spirited rolling hoop race!
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The Hiner family heading to the house for Cultural Pass fun!

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Jocelyn (as Eloise Bullitt) explains the finer points of hoop rolling.

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Noah (as Charles Croghan) contemplates the benefits of a 19th-century education.

Heather demonstrates making cornhusk dolls!

Heather demonstrates making cornhusk dolls!

As summer has drawn to a close, we’ve also said goodbye to our three wonderful interns–Sarah, Bailey, and Melissa! Their projects have added a great deal to our collections and our interpretation, but don’t take my word for it! Here are their own words about their experiences.
Bailey works on inventory in the woodshop.

Bailey works on inventory in the woodshop.

“I’ve had some trial and error (and ultimate success) in terms of formulating an efficient system to reconcile information from the physical collection of artifacts with information in the museum’s database. In a different vein, while I’m still probably more afraid than most when it comes to insects and squirrels, I have had to confront and conquer these hindrances in order to successfully do my project here.
Some of my favorite moments at LG have been witnessing how visitors connect American history to their personal histories. For example, while in the Woodshop I would often hear statements along the lines of: “My grandparents had an old shop just like this! The smell alone brings back great memories from childhood.” Or, “Wow, that’s an impressive collection of planes! I used to use some similar to those.” In those moments, I was given tangible examples of the importance of my project (inventorying the collection). For me, it’s easy to get into a solitary routine where I, obviously, understand the importance of my project from a curatorial standpoint. But, being able to interact and hear personal tidbits from visitors really made the project dynamic and especially meaningful.” –Bailey M.
Melissa works on a sewing project as a demonstration during Cultural Pass.

Melissa works on a sewing project as a demonstration during Cultural Pass.

“I had such a fantastic time as an intern at Locust Grove this summer that it is hard for me to put it into words! Brian, the program coordinator, and I worked very closely in order to plan and facilitate events such as the Historical Picnic and Wedding, Hemp Festival, Party like it’s 1922, and many more. I’m just thrilled that I was able to be a part of the LG team and can’t wait for all of the awesome things to come (hint: they contain whiskey and food!) My time at LG has given me the confidence to run into my graduate program at the University of Cincinnati headfirst, and I cannot wait to see where the future will take me!“–Melissa A.
Sarah leads the house tour she developed about Dr. John Croghan.

Sarah leads the house tour she developed about Dr. John Croghan.

“I absolutely loved this internship. If I had another chance to do it again, I definitely would. The hardest part about this project was finding primary sources to match wonderful secondary leads. One of my favorite finds was finding the article, “Remarkable Phenomenon.” This article is about John and his salt lick business hitting oil near the Cumberland River.The easiest thing about this internship was the people I worked with. Everyone at Locust Grove is so nice and interesting. This aspect about my internship is probably what I’ll miss the most. I loved hearing stories from volunteers about their life.” –Sarah H.

Our summer staff person, Samantha H., also completed a wonderful archaeology exhibit for us in the Surveyor’s Office! It is on display now, so stop by to see some of the pieces that were found on the grounds!

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Our first field trip of the school year!

The return of fall means students join us for school tours and field trips. We’ve already welcomed several classes for our Pioneer tours and Craft Samplers, and we look forward to welcoming even more in the upcoming months! More information about school tours can be found here.As we prepare for field trips, autumn events, and visitors from near and far, we’ve also been taking the time to make some repairs to the house. Here’s Lorraine carefully mending the worn places on the woven carpet that covers our stair treads. Each spot takes about six hours to complete, so we are incredibly lucky to have her skill and patience at work in our house.

Thanks for all of your great work, Lorraine!

Thanks for all of your great work, Lorraine!

We’ve had such fun playing this summer, and we’re looking forward to the fun continuing into the fall! Program Manager Brian Cushing had this to say about our summer events:

“We cast a wide net variety wise in order to find out what, exactly, it is that people want to come to Locust Grove to do. Our three most popular categories, hands down, were special theater performances, interactive/hands-on historical experiences, and Bourbon. Luckily, these are three things that we have the most fun bringing to people! This will likely guide the formation of new special programming going forward so  we can create series of programs that we know our visitors will value. We have laid the groundwork for a new wave of partnerships between Locust Grove and Kentucky Shakespeare and we are taking stock in the range of period trade centered historical experiences we have the capacity to offer. We also have some great connections here at Locust Grove with the Bourbon community, Susan Reiglar having been its biggest champion here, and will try to give life to every sort of experience we can think of.

I also want to mention our First Person Interpreters and living history demonstrators. They were more out in force this Summer than ever before and consistently grabbed the attention of visitors and delivered history to them in the interactive, engaging, moldable way that the modern museum audience requires. They have formed into a remarkable team and deliver an incredibly professional product, even though the corps is 100% volunteer. They are also only ever committed to making it better. We are looking at a solid cornerstone for the future of the Locust Grove experience here.”

As always, you can find our full calendar of events here, but now, we want to hear from you! If you attended one of our summer events, whether it was a Thursday night lecture on beer or a Sunday afternoon at Cultural Pass or Antiques Market, please tell us about your experiences! What did you enjoy this summer? What would you like to see more of here at Locust Grove?  We also love seeing pictures and  hearing stories of your time with us, so find us on social media, send us an email at staff@locustgrove.org, or use the contact form below.  And if you have any ideas about what you’d like to see on this blog, I am always open to suggestions! History is about everyone!

Yours sincerely,

Hannah