Friday, August 10, 2007

Lafayette Comes to Temple Hall Farm

Photo (left to right: Marquis de Lafayette, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams & Elizabeth Mason)

August 9, 1825 hero of the Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette, former President James Monroe and current President John Quincy Adams visited Temple Hall Farm as part of Lafayette's 13 month tour of the United States.

August 9, 2007 Temple Hall Farm Regional Park celebrates its first annual Lafayette Day. This event features living history re-enactors, a historic french carriage was provided for the day by Ayrshire Farm, wagon rides and historic house tours were also available. We acknowledged the donation last month of a gift from the Symington Estate to support the farm endowment. Since 2004 the Symington Estate has donated $5 million for the long term support and development of Temple Hall Farm.

This was a great start to an annual event that we hope will grow each year. The long term vision for Temple Hall Farm Regional Park is to greatly expand the interpretation of our agricultural history over the coming years. Lafayette Day gives us one annual special event were we focus on the most exciting day in Temple Hall's almost 200 year history.

For more information on the history of Temple Hall Farm you can see the application for the National Register of Historic Places for the farm at:

Monday, August 06, 2007

Making History Come Alive!

“Living history,” “re-enacting,” “period costumed performers,” whatever you call it, it is perhaps the most powerful tool to engage the public in historic sites. At the Regional Park Authority we have been working to expand the number and diversity of living history events in our parks to help engage the public in the rich history of our area.

Last Sunday, Carlyle House Historic Park in Alexandria hosted one of its annual re-enactments, focusing on when the Carlyle family moved into the house in 1753. Because of the great living history volunteers that made the house come alive with 18th Century activity, over 400 visitors participated in the afternoon tours! It was a steady stream of public from 12 to 4:00 P.M.

Visitors both learned about history and were treated to an entertaining experience. When people participate in an event like this they come away with a sense of what it was like to live in that time period. This is and experience that it is not easy to get from just reading an interpretive sign or seeing a static display. It is called “living history” for a reason.

The volunteers that do living history are an amazing group. Not only do they give great attention to correct period clothing, they often do extensive research into the character they are portraying. They are a wealth of information, and work hard to make history accessible to the general public. If you see a reenactor at one of our historic parks or one of the other great sites in the our area that do living history programs like, Gunston Hall, Gadsby’s Tavern, Mt. Vernon, or others, ask that person some questions. It will likely lead to a great conversation, that will be both fun and enlightening.

In addition to the programs at the Carlyle House, NVRPA also offers battlefield tours by living history volunteers of Balls Bluff Battlefield in Leesburg. Those tours are held on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:00 and Noon during the spring, summer and fall. Similarly we host milling demonstrations at Aldie Mill Historic Park in Aldie Virginia on weekends at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 during the spring, summer and fall.

This year we are adding a new program that we hope to do every August 9th. From 6:00 – 8:00 P.M. on Thursday August 9th we are hosting our first Lafayette Day, at Temple Hall Farm Regional Park outside of Leesburg. This event will celebrate August 9th 1825 when the Marquis de Lafayette, President John Quincy Adams, and former President James Monroe all visited the farm that was owned by William Temple Mason, the nephew of George Mason of Gunston Hall.

Below are some of the Living History Events coming up.
August 9th – Lafayette Day @ Temple Hall Farm
August 18th – Alexandria Surrenders (War of 1812) @ Carlyle House
September 22nd & 23rd - Civil War encampment @ Balls Bluff Battlefield
October 27th – Colonel John Carlyle’s 1780 Funeral @ Carlyle House
November 10th – Muster Day 1781 (join the Fairfax Militia) @ Carlyle House
December 1st – A solder’s Christmas (First VA Regiment) @ Carlyle House

(Check for more details on these and other programs.)