Thursday, January 9, 2014

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Monday, May 11, 2009

The lilacs are out in full bloom on most of the property! If you didn't come by to check them out over the weekend, try to find some time this week to enjoy them. The garden clubs are also out in full force cleaning, planting, and mulching the gardens. The grounds are looking beautiful.
We have a lot going on this week -- and there's something for all ages and all interests. On Wednesday at 10:00am we have our History Kids! program. This is designed for families with pre-school age children. The kids will take a tour of part of the historic house and do an activity. The program usually lasts about 90 minutes and costs just $5 per child (adults are free).
Wednesday night at 7:00pm our curator Allan Weinreb will be presenting our first Curator's Fabulous Finds. We are very lucky to have a vast collection, but unfortunately don't have the means to display everything. This program is intended to open up our collection, focusing on a different theme each time, and highlight some of our treasures. This installment will address works on paper including our celestial globe, a letter signed by John Jay when he was President of the Continental Congress, and a Matthew Brady photograph -- see our website for more information.
The John Jay Book Club will be meeting on Thursday to discuss Thomas Truxes' Defying the Enemy. We'd love to have you join us, even if you haven't read the book yet. If you can't make it on Thursday, consider joining us on June 11th to discuss Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution by Richard Beeman.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring is definitely in the air at the Homestead! Our flowering trees are in bloom, and the lilacs are about to pop! If you're familiar with the Homestead, you know how spectacular the lilacs are when they bloom in early May - If you haven't experienced them, you should try to plan a visit in about one week. I'll post a note as soon as they blossom, so check back often if you're trying to coordinate a visit.
Today we had the first studio session to record voiceover roles for our video. The live action scenes were shot on site and at the Bedford Courthouse last October, and we have been editing all winter. The video is about 11-minutes long and is designed to present our visitors with information on John Jay's many important accomplishments. It will show in the theater of the Carriage Barn Education and Visitor Center which we plan to open next year. This has been a time consuming project, but we are seeing how all our hard work is paying off as we finalize the film.
We've also been booked solid with school groups. One of my personal favorite programs is John Jay: Revolutionary Spymaster. Last week had the opportunity to present the program to a couple of very enthusiastic groups of fourth grade students from G.W. Krieger Elementary School in Poughkeepsie. The kids got to tour the house looking for secret spy messages, hear stories of spies during the American Revolution, and make buttons that contain their own secret spy messages. The Hackley School's third grade came last week as well for our popular Then & Now program. And this week we hosted Windward School's fifth grade for a challenging program, Slavery & Abolition. No matter what the program, grade, or ability of the student, there is always an "ah-ha" moment for each of them. I love watching them discover something new! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yesterday morning was spent walking the property selecting locations for our new composting bins. Sustainability is one of the areas we'll be giving a lot of attention. In addition to starting a composting program on site, we've been looking for ways to cut our fuel consumption and carbon footprint through reductions in our mowing program. Last year we let approximately 20-acres of previously manicured "lawn" return to "meadow." This year we plan to expand those areas on the property that only get mowed once a year. We're also developing an interpretive program that will educate our visitors about the changes we are making on site and offer suggestions on ways they can make similar changes at home.
The other focus of yesterday morning's walk was scoping out potential sites for a community garden. Historically, much of our property had been used for agriculture and husbandry. Like many of the Founding Fathers, when John Jay retired from politics, he became a gentleman farmer. Currently we have no agricultural practice on the property, and we only have animals here during special events like the Country Fair. For years we've been contemplating ways to return agriculture to the property - a community garden might be a way for us to start.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Every morning this week from 10:00am to noon we have a spring break "mini-camp" workshop for kids ages 5-12. Each day the kids explore a different part of the house and learn something new about the Jay family's life. Monday we had a great group of kids learning about John Jay, Revolutionary Spymaster. They heard spy stories from the Revolutionary War, made spy buttons to sew on their clothes to smuggle secret messages, wrote messages using quill pens and invisible ink, and played some spy games. Tomorrow we'll become history detectives, exploring objects to learn about life 200 years ago, taking a "Then & Now" tour of the historic house, and making butter the way it was made on the farm during John Jay's time. Thursday's program will answer the question "What did people wear in the 18th century?" And Friday we will show kids how to have fun without TV or videos games, by playing colonial era games, even making a game the kids can bring home with them to extend the fun. Don't worry if you've missed out on this week's activities -- we have another block of workshops planned for next school year's winter break and our Family Discovery Sundays and History Kids! programs that run throughout the year offer similar experiences. Visit our website for more information on these programs.
The break in rainy weather today provided a good time to work in the gardens, getting them prepped for spring. We have four fantastic garden clubs volunteering at the Homestead, and a seemingly tireless chairperson of our landscape committee working diligently. Together we've been trimming hedges, cleaning-up the gardens, repairing deer fencing, planning for re-planting, beginning a composting program, and we'll be opening the fountain in the formal garden in the next few days.

I've been diligently reading Annette Gordon-Reed's book in preparation for the inaugural meeting of our history book club. We meet on Thursday 4/9 from noon to 1:00pm in the Ballroom. Bring a brown bag lunch and join in the discussion! The book club will be meeting on the second Thursday of each month at this same time, so even if you have plans for this coming Thursday plan on joining us in the future. If you want to participate in the book club, but can't meet during the day, please call me at 914-232-5651 x104 -- if we get enough interest, I'll set up an evening section of the club too! 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Last night, despite the dreary weather, we had more than 100 people come out to enjoy a thought-provoking lecture by Annette Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. This was the last in a series of three lectures taking a "New Look at Three American Presidents," which also featured David S. Reynolds, Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, and Philip Kunhardt, Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon. If you weren't able to join us for those lectures, or if you did and want more, mark your calendar for Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, coming to the Homestead on October 2, 2009!
If you came out for the lecture last night, hopefully you took some time to examine the fascinating documents Seth Kaller (of Seth Kaller, Inc.) brought to the Homestead to compliment the evening's program. He had, among others, a first edition of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, a document signed by Stephen Hopkins (signer of the Declaration of Independence) freeing his slave Saint Jugo, and a print of the Slave Ship Brookes, an iconic slavery image depicting several hundred slaves on four cargo decks of the notorious slave ship Brookes.
You also may have seen our newly expanded exhibit commemorating the 225th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris. Yesterday afternoon we added a number of objects including John Jay's walking stick, given to him in 1783 by William Bingham, and Sarah Jay's fan, made from carved ivory and watercolor on paper. We also added a Proclamation of Congress's Ratification of the Treaty of Paris, generously provided by Seth Kaller, Inc. The exhibit will remain up through September and can be seen as part of our regular house tour. You can also see the exhibit during our special gallery hours on Fridays from 10:00am to noon and Sundays from noon to 2:00pm.