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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