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Monday, September 7, 2015

Staunton Experience

My younger sister Carol has been a high school English teacher for thirty years. Last spring the school decided to give her "an experience" in honor of her service. She received an all-expense paid trip to Staunton, Virginia, to see a Shakespeare play at the American Shakespeare theatre and lodging at the Anne Hathaway Bed & Breakfast. (Anne Hathaway was Shakespeare's wife.) The B & B had three bedrooms so Carol decided to invite her two sisters and three friends to go along and fill up the place. (We extras each chipped in to pay our tickets, gas, etc.)
We left on Friday afternoon, September 4, and arrived at the B & B about 9pm. It was dark by then so we could not appreciate the beauty of the property until the next morning. The house was built in 2009 to resemble a drawing of Anne Hathaway's actual house in England, complete with a genuine thatched roof.
Although this place is right in town, it sets toward the back of the lot and a full English garden screens it from the road so it feels secluded.

The Great Room where we ate breakfast also had a comfortable lounging area in front of the fireplace. The owner of the place is from England and spoke with a strong British accent, which just added to the atmosphere.


The four younger members of our party slept in the two upstairs Romeo and Juliette rooms while my older sister and I slept in "William's Room" on the first floor.

After breakfast Saturday morning we went to the Frontier Cultural Museum a couple miles from the B&B. The museum features living history farms of the first pioneers who settled in the Shenandoah Valley. There is also a Native American home site and two farms from the 1800s.
We began our tour with a West African home. This one was included because of the large number of Africans who were brought to Virginia. The ground inside the family compound was intentionally kept bare as protection from deadly snakes. The buildings are kept wide and low to keep them cool. The one in the center is the man's "office" where he eats and does business. Just behind it is his sleeping house. About age 13 the boys begin sleeping in their father's sleeping house. Younger children sleep in their mothers' houses. The house on the right is the first wife's house and on the left is the second wife's house. Each one has their own outdoor kitchen.

The English farm came from Worcestershire. It originally stood near the town of Hartlebury in England's West Midlands. This house belonged to a yeoman, a class of independent landowning farmers who sent many sons and daughters to Virginia in the mid-to-late 17th century. This family's main source of income was wool. The pieces of this house were numbered as it was dismantled in 1992. It was shipped to America and reassembled in the museum in 1993.

The Scotch-Irish (Ulster) farm formerly stood on the townland of Claraghmore in East Longfield Parish, near the town of Drumquin in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. This was the first of the structures acquired by the museum in late 1984 to early 1985. Staff members numbered and shipped 174 tons of stone to Virginia to reconstruct this Irish farm.
The family lived in one room on the left side of the center door. The room on the right side of the door is where the father wove into cloth the wool and flax the family produced. The parents had a bed and the father had a chair but children slept on the floor and everyone sat on the floor to eat. At this point in history their main food was oats. They raised potatoes but considered them horse food.

The German farm, acquired in 1991, had the most familiar look to me. The first mass exodus of Germans from the Palatinate occurred in 1709 and continued through the 1750s. Pennsylvania became the focal point for German settlement in America. Most of the German-speaking people who settled in Virginia went there after living Pennsylvania for a period of time.
From the late-17th century to the late-20th century, this German farm stood in the small village of Hordt in the Rhineland-Palatinate. German farmers' homes and barns were in the villages but their fields were outside the village. The ownership of this house has been traced back to Johann Jacob Wolf and his wife, Maria Appollonia Buchman, who were married in 1784. The date "1688" is carved into the northeast corner post of the house and may indicate the date of construction.

The path then took us "across the water" to America where we visited a Native American home. The type of house the natives built depended on location and tribe. This one is not portraying any particular tribe but is just intended to give a general idea of a native home.

We visited a replica of a 1740 pioneer home. One thing I noticed was that although the style of construction varied, the majority of the houses were built of some combination of wood and earth.


The next American house is called the 1820 house, although the original (left) part was built in the 1770s by Johannes Bauman of Berks County, Pennsylvania. His grandson added the right section in 1820. Bauman's house was moved to the museum from Timberville, Virginia. Notice how much "progress" has been made since 1740.

Across the road from the 1820 house is the 1860 house, which is again more elaborate. It includes a spring house, large barn, and other buildings. This farm was moved here from Botetourt County, Virginia. It originally stood southwest of the town of Eagle Rock. This farm was built by the Bargers, a family of German descent. The builder's grandfather had settled in Rockbridge County in the 1790s. His son moved to Botetourt. In 1832, John Barger bought 187 acres along Little Patterson's Creek and began work on his house in 1835. As the family grew, the house was expanded with an addition on the right side.

This concluded our tour of the museum and we returned to the B & B to freshen up for the next event. After a bit of wandering we found our way to the Blackfriars Playhouse to see William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The American Shakespeare Theatre is a replica of the Globe Theatre in England where Shakespeare's plays were originally performed. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed so I don't have any pictures from there.
Julius Caesar is one of the Shakespeare plays Carol teaches at school. She said she wouldn't be able to recite it but as she watched it being performed she knew what the actors would say next. Afterward, she told us how she teaches it. Some of the points she makes from it is that it's never right to do a wrong and the end does not justify the means. I enjoyed watching it even though I wasn't able to brush all the hay seeds out of my hair.
We ended Saturday with a picnic in a park and then went back to the B & B to relax, play games, etc.
Sunday morning we checked out of the B & B and went to services at Staunton Mennonite Church. It's a small but friendly congregation.

After church we headed up to Bridgewater and had lunch with some of Carol's friends, Mike and Sarah Showalter. About 3pm we hit the road north. We survived the trip in spite of the fact that it was in the 90s all weekend and the AC in the van wasn't working. Carol discovered it had given up the ghost about a half hour before we left on Friday. We looked forward to this trip all summer and made a lot of memories that will last as long as we do. I was honored to be included in this "experience."


Merle and Edith Burkholder said...

It looks like a really interesting trip. It sounds like you all had a good time. I'm glad you were able to go and enjoy the time together. ~merle

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post.