What does the Historic Waco Foundation do?
By Jill Barrow
Last October I failed retirement! But, in a good way…
I was honored to be asked to assume the duties of Interim Executive Director of The Historic Waco Foundation. Since then I have been getting the question more and more often — “What does Historic Waco do?
One thing Historic Waco is known for doing is maintaining four historic homes (McCulloch House, Earle-Napier-Kinnard House, East Terrace and Fort House) and interpreting Waco’s history through them to visitors. Will we continue telling the history of Waco through these homes? Yes! In fact, these fine homes will be open to the public more often.
East Terrace and Earle-Napier-Kinnard will become our main stage through which to share the cultural history of Waco. Even though the homes were built in the late 1800’s, they were occupied until the mid-1900’s. By changing the collections within the homes, we can interpret different decades of Waco history, and share the cultural history of more than just the small period of time we currently interpret. We will have one house focusing on one decade and the other on a different time period. And we will change the interpretation every year or two. This will allow us to share the stories of all the diverse cultures in Waco, and not just the history of the original families of these homes. The houses will become a backdrop or stage for presenting Waco’s cultural history. You can visit the houses again and again and have a different experience.
East Terrace will also become the site of our large temporary exhibits. Being able to have these exhibits on the first floor will make them accessible to all. Earle-Napier-Kinnard will have a community space, where community group can display items and share stories of their culture and history.
We need the public to visit the homes, and plan on offering McCulloch as a rental facility. The downstairs parlor and dining room are perfect for small weddings and meetings. This house has a working kitchen and dressing areas, and all of the rentable areas are on the first floor, making this house very accessible. Just imagine sitting in the parlor where Mrs. McCulloch taught piano or entertained guests. McCulloch House will still be open as a house museum for visitors to see how the Caldwells and their 5 children lived in a two-room cabin, and the McCullochs built the fine two story adjacent structure to house their 10 children.
The homes are part of the answer to the question, “What does Historic Waco do?” but there is more…and that’s where you come in!
Historic Waco is the storyteller of Waco history. That is what our answer should be. Our mission is to preserve and to present the history of Waco – and that means that we interpret the history of Waco through artifacts and stories. When the Waco Indians settled this area, they told stories about their life here, and left an oral history along with the archeological data. George Barnard opened his Indian trading post in 1844 and left a fascinating history in his record books – records that tell the story of people and objects sold and traded. Neil McLennan shared stories of the beauty of this area and enticed others to come settle here. Jacob de Cordova and George B. Erath shared their vision of a new town called Waco through stories of what was offered here. The families who built and lived in the four homes Historic Waco maintains, the Forts, the McCullochs, the Earles, the Napiers and Kinnards, and the Manns, all left stories of their lives in those homes through their letters and journals.
Storytelling and education go hand in hand. Historic Waco is expanding its educational programs to include monthly Family Fundays held at the historic houses. The themes of the monthly Family Fundays relate to the month and to the history of the house. We have wonderful programs to offer schools and their students. There are different themes for the school programs; medicine, games, holidays, etiquette, transportation and migration, architecture, and the good ole days! Teachers can also check out traveling trucks to use in their classrooms. Adults can come to our fall and spring lectures. Families can join in the fun and festivities of our Texas Independence Day Celebration on March 2, on the grounds of East Terrace, or visit with Santa and see our homes all decked out for Christmas the second weekend of December.
Because Historic Waco is more than just four historic homes, we must continue sharing this city’s history. We need volunteers, sponsors and others who want to step up and assist us with this challenge. Preserving history and story-telling can be difficult in this modern world, but it is imperative that we do so. We need people who are passionate about all aspects of the cultural history of Waco and who are willing to share the stories.
Can we count on you to join us as we change to be able to tell the story of Waco, past and present? If so, contact us! We will put you to work!
Jill Barrow is currently the Interim Executive Director of Historic Waco. She has served as the director of the Ollie Mae Moen Discovery Center, and as the Director of Education for the Mayborn Museum. She “retired” in June after teaching science for 10 years at Rapoport Academy Middle School on the Quinn campus.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.