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!

The Hiner family heading to the house for Cultural Pass fun!


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


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!


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, 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,


Get thee to Locust Grove for Shakespeare! (No protesting much)

All the books are sold, Spring is on its way and Locust Grove is moving on to our next exciting event! This Thursday, at 7pm, members of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival will be giving a candlelight reading of Hamlet! The reading will take place in the Great Parlor on the second floor of the house, so seating is limited to 60. As of this writing, we have 45 reservations, so call 502-897-9845 to reserve your seats now! You can find more information on the event here. Doors open at 6:30, and the reading begins at 7pm. I love all things Shakespeare, so I asked a few questions of Tony Milder and Megan Massie, two Artistic Associates or “actor educators” with Kentucky Shakespeare, about the process of preparing and presenting a historic reading of Locust Grove. Enjoy, and let’s hope all’s well that ends well!

What is the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and what is your role? 

Meet Ophelia...I mean Megan.  (Photo courtesy of Megan Massie)

Meet Ophelia…I mean Megan.
(Photo courtesy of Megan Massie)

Megan: Kentucky Shakespeare is the oldest free Shakespeare Festival in the nation and the largest touring provider of in-school arts education in the state of Kentucky. Our mission is to bring the works of Shakespeare to people of all walks of life and make them accessible, educational, and entertaining. My duties include being an actor, education artist, sales associate, and education coordinator.

Tony: I go to schools throughout the Commonwealth performing and teaching Shakespeare with my awesome tour partner Megan. We both also appear in the summer shows in the park: some people might recognize me as Puck or Horatio and Megan as Ophelia or Catherine. And no, every 3rd grader in the state, we are not married. Kentucky Shakespeare put[s]on free shows in Central Park in Old Louisville every summer, and we’re working on expanding into other parks and locations like Locust Grove in the region to try to reach as many people as possible.

Meet Tony! He'll be playing Horatio.  (Photo courtesy of Tony Milder.)

Meet Tony! He’ll be playing Horatio.
(Photo courtesy of Tony Milder.)

How did the partnership between Locust Grove and KY Shakespeare develop?

Megan: We are a community-based organization and have been reaching out to different cultural partners throughout Louisville. Locust Grove is such a wonderful, historic institution that we wanted to be a part of the exciting work they were already doing. After a meeting between their directors and ours, all agreed on pursuing a partnership.


Try to spot Tony and Megan in these photos from last summer's production!  (Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival.)

Try to spot Tony and Megan in these photos from last summer’s production!
(Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival.)


How is preparing a dramatic reading different from rehearsing for a full production? 

Megan: The rehearsal process for a reading is compacted. Instead of rehearsing for 3-5 weeks, the rehearsal is only 3-5 hours! Generally, the blocking (what we call stage movement), props, and costume requirements are minimal and any notes that we need, we have our scripts in front of us to reference. Of course, performing a full-scale Shakespeare production means no scripts in hand, multiple costumes, and multiple props, depending on the demands of the show. That being said, in both types of performance, there is an incredible amount of text work that the actors and directors must do. Understanding what you are saying is the first step in portraying a story to the audience, especially in Shakespeare. If I don’t know what I’m saying or what my character wants, how will the audience know? This textual process often takes hours of homework. But I must admit, I love that part!


(Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival)



Tony: Preparing for a reading is definitely less involved. There is, however, the added challenge of playing multiple characters and getting those differences across with only the voice; a lot more is put on the actors’ shoulders in this sense than what would normally happen on a full production. No matter what, though, we still do all of the prep work that goes into dissecting a character such as examining the language used, looking up words we don’t know, and finding the scansion for each line (analyzing the iambic pentameter that Shakespeare is famous for using; finding the rhythm of the line). Typically, we’ll put up a full stage production in about a month. Sometimes, we’ll get together the afternoon before a staged reading to look through it before the performance that night.


Intrigue! With masks! (Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival)


Megan: In this particular reading of Hamlet, we are fortunate to have already performed the play and I believe the entire reading cast has played his or her part before. I will be playing Ophelia, whom I played from February to August of last year. This reading will be more like seeing an old friend than meeting a new one. But I can assure you our familiarity with the text will only serve to enhance the excitement and vitality in Shakespeare’s timeless tale of revenge.

The rehearsal will consist of reading the play and getting blocking/music notes from the director, stopping and starting as we go along. Then after a small break and a final read through rehearsal, the audience arrives!

Tony: Since we don’t need to memorize the lines for a reading, most of the focus goes into fleshing out and separating the characters vocally since we don’t have much chance for movement. We usually do this kind of work on our own; we won’t get together until a week before or sometimes even the day of the reading to put it all together. At that time, we’ll read through the script for the first time as a group, and the director will add in some rudimentary blocking (movement). Sometimes, we only have a chance to do it all once in rehearsal before we put it in front of an audience, which is very exciting for me personally because it adds a more improvisational nature to the script.

(Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival)

(Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival)

What is the significance of performing in the Great Parlor at Locust Grove? Can you give some historical background on performing in spaces like this? 

Tony: Most of Shakespeare’s plays premiered in The Globe, a large, open-roofed structure where the audience surrounded the stage in a sea of laughing, eating, and drinking. In the midst of this, the play would be going on, and the actors would sometimes literally be fighting for attention (hence the many direct addresses Shakespeare puts into his scripts). For a more indoor space, patrons could head to the nearby Blackfriars Theatre where plays could be lit by candlelight, though Shakespeare had no stake in this place until near the end of his life. Basically, spaces like the Great Parlor were not common for performance. That is, unless serious money was involved: Queen Elizabeth I or King James I often requested special performances for their Court, so the whole troupe would travel to a palace to perform at one of the great halls. Nobles would also request performances at their country houses and estates, but these would still likely be held in rooms much larger than the Great Parlor. It probably wouldn’t be until sometime in the 19th century when “closet dramas,” plays read by a solitary person or a small group, became popular, and Shakespearean performance moved into a more intimate setting. Interestingly enough, this was also the same time period as some of the grandest theatrical productions of the Bard’s plays; many think the closer setting was a response to the popular spectacle, an attempt by the Romantics to focus on the language of the plays.

This happens to also be the time that the house at Locust Grove was built (circa 1792). If Romanticism ever reached the farms of Kentucky, it could be that some of Shakespeare’s work was read in the mansion, maybe even in the Great Parlor. Personally, I always like to imagine members of a family putting on plays by candlelight to entertain each other during a long winter, though I’m not sure there are any historical documents to support that. But we can pretend for one night, can’t we?


Words, words, words… (Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival)


Megan: When I visited Locust Grove for the first time for our reading of Macbeth, I learned that the family library at Locust Grove had many volumes of Shakespeare’s works. It was a common practice in that day to have dramatic readings in large house parlors; in rural areas theatres were not close by and television and movies were many years away. We wanted to continue the parlor tradition by performing Shakespearean readings similarly to how they would have – no sets, minimal costumes, minimal props, and of course, by candlelight.

What can our visitors expect during the performance? 

Tony: Intimacy. I know that’s a dangerous word to start out with, but that’s the key difference between this event and what we do in the parks: you are literally put into a small room with wild actors who are set loose with a script and told to go for it. It’s a well-known trait of Shakespeare’s to have his actors speak directly to his audience, and in a theater, one might feel a bit safe in anonymity, a part of the glaze of a general crowd. In this room, however, there are fewer places to hide: eye contact will be made. You may be addressed. You may even be (accidentally) spat upon (most likely by me, and I apologize profusely in advance from the dry comfort of my computer self). You will see and hear a broader range of performance from the actors since everything is no longer intended to fill a 1,000-seat theater; now, there are only about 50. It will be like seeing a movie being made in front of your eyes where every sound, every breath, even yours in the audience, contributes to the story. Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most introspective works, exploring and contrasting the private and public worlds of a tortured prince; it’s one that I think will work particularly well in this setting.

Megan: I think they can expect is a good time hearing one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, and my personal favorite.


(Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival)


What else would you like your audience to know before they arrive?

Tony: It’s a very interesting thing doing a reading as an actor. On one hand, you have the safety of the script in your hand. Normally, in the process of putting together a full production, there comes a time when you have to let go of your script, and it’s a lot like making Linus let go of his security blanket: you’ve got the book of answers in your hand, and you have to set it down and have all of that information in your head. It’s always a necessary milestone. This frees up your hands to do things, and suddenly your head is up, and your eyes can focus on your fellow actors and the audience. It’s part of what makes the connection so immediate in theater, this freedom. But in a reading, the script is still there, so there’s a shield for the actor. You feel safe, but you have to push a little harder to connect. Being at least somewhat familiar with your words helps since you can maximize your time looking up, but you will still have to tilt your head down every once in a while to check back in. It’s kind of a constantly recurring reminder to both the actor and the audience that these words are all planned, and they’ve all been said before. The goal with most full productions is to make them feel as natural and off-the-cuff as possible, but staged readings feel like they bring the playwright into the room, and the focus goes to the words rather than the spectacle. This works well for Shakespeare, though, since it’s his beautiful language that’s carried him through the years.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Megan and Tony! We’re all so excited to see the performance! For more local Shakespeare fun, visit Kentucky Shakespeare online here. And if you know any theater and history loving kids, Locust Grove will be hosting a session of Camp Shakespeare THIS SUMMER from June 8-June 12 for ages 7-15! Tons of information about camps is right here. Reservations are open! And don’t forget your reservation for Hamlet–this Thursday at 7pm! Is something rotten in the state of Denmark? Is there method in Hamlet’s madness? What is the question anyway? All and more will be answered on Thursday!

Theatrically yours,


*All photographs courtesy of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival via Tony Milder and Megan Massie. Thank you!*

Throwback Thursday: It’s time for a good old-fashioned guessing game!

Raise your hand if you like talking about old stuff! Part of the job of a museum is to preserve and protect historical artifacts, whether they are textiles, documents, ceramics, toys, silver, or anything else a historical person owned, made, and used. As a house museum, Locust Grove possesses many more objects than we can display in the house or museum gallery. So today, we’re going to play Name That Artifact! Archives intern Kaitlyn kindly chose and photographed several artifacts from our collection for your especial benefit. Today, we’re presenting two of them, and it’s up to you to guess what they are! Are you ready? Let the guessing begin!

Mystery Item #1:



Hint: This document dates to c. 1815-1818.

Mystery Item #2:


Hint: The design of this item is unique to the Croghan family.

Friday, October 3, 2014: The answers are revealed!

Thanks for playing, everyone, either through comments or social media! Now, let’s identify some mystery items!

Mystery Item #1 is…George Rogers Clark’s will! Commenters R. and Jo were correct! It is dated November 1815, and was used following his death on February 13, 1818 at Locust Grove.

Mystery Item #2 was a little trickier but it is…the Croghan family wax seal! Featuring an insignia unique to the Croghan family, it would have been used to seal and authenticate letters and other important documents.

Now, friendly readers, time for a little feedback. What did you think of this game? Would you like to see more artifacts from our collections? What else (or who else) would you like to see featured on the blog? Leave a comment or find me on Twitter (@HannahRegular) to weigh in! Thanks for all your suggestions!

With kind regards,


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!) Thanks ever so much for your support!