Long Branch hosts ‘History, Harvest Grand Re-Opening’

Posted: October 24, 2013

The Winchester Star

Cassie Ward, director of public programs at Historic Long Branch, adjusts a display for a new exhibit. The re-opening is this weekend. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

Millwood — Historic Long Branch will re-open this weekend with a three-day schedule of activities.

After being closed during the spring and summer to undergo changes, the historic home in Millwood will offer music, tours, antique appraisal clinic, and three new exhibits showcasing the house’s history, Executive Director Nicholas Redding said.

The house underwent major changes in an effort to become more interactive and educational for the public, he said. “People who knew Long Branch before need to come back and see it because it is something completely different now.”

The “History and Harvest Grand Re-Opening Weekend at Long Branch Plantation” will be held from Friday to Sunday at the historic home at 830 Long Branch Lane.

The preview night from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday is free. Admission is $5 for adults and free for 10 and under for the activities from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $15 for “Long Branch After Hours: Campfire and Evening Tour of the House” from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday for ages 13 and older.

The biggest changes for the house are new exhibits and efforts to return the home’s furnishings to what they looked like in the 1840s, which is closer to when the house was built in the 1800s and inhabited by the Nelson family.

“It marks a new era for Long Branch in that we are transitioning to a legitimate and research focused historic site,” he said.

“The Long Branch Story” is an exhibit Redding curated to tell the story of the house. It covers from settlement to present day, telling the story “largely through the people who lived here.”

About 90 percent of the artifacts on display in the room were new acquisitions this year that came from dealers, family members, or other sources, he said. “It is a collection that will grow and an exhibit that will change over time as more research is completed and as we acquire more objects.”

Some of the items on display are an original 18th century ledger, a Nelson family Bible, and furniture, such as a chair dating to the 1850s or 1860s that belonged to the family, he said. “One of the big pastimes of the Nelson family we know about was porch sitting. This was part of that.”

Another exhibit, “Harry Isaacs Legacy,” tells the story of the Baltimore textile executive who bought the house at an auction in the 1980s. He furnished the house with antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries not in keeping with its history, Redding said. Part of the transition for the house involved selling many of the items in an auction Oct. 5 and 6 that totaled $650,000.

The exhibit looks at how Isaacs established himself as a young businessman, became highly successful, and what brought him to Long Branch, Redding said. “We have never actually told his story. This is an opportunity to set the record straight about his record of philanthropy and what he did for Long Branch.”

The exhibit includes horse racing memorabilia, a 1940s I.C. Isaacs Co. catalog from his textile firm, and original plans and blue prints from his restoration of Long Branch, Redding said.

The third exhibit, “History Detective: Uncovering 200 Years of History at Long Branch Plantation,” was curated by Cassie Ward, director of public programs. It lets visitors explore the process of historical research and interpretation that was used to look into Long Branch’s history.

“We talk about the traditional and modern research methods,” she said. “Then we talk about telling the history of Long Branch Plantation and how we are doing that through programs, tours of the house, exhibit galleries, and period furniture in the home.”

The furnishing of the house is not complete and won’t be right away, Redding said. Some of the rooms are beginning to take shape, but others have displays describing what is coming and what they were used for historically.

“We are doing it right and making sure what we acquire is what we want in the home. That will be one of the big efforts in 2014,” he said.

The changes to the house are already dramatic, Ward said, but visitors at the preview night Friday and the historian led candlelight tour Saturday night will see it in a different way. “As 20th and 21st century, we are used to everything being lit so brightly. In the 19th century and earlier, it was not that way.”

Several activities will run all day Saturday and Sunday, she said.

Each day at 1 and 3 p.m., Redding will offer “Meet the 19th Century Farmer,” a 45-minute historic walk around the house introducing Long Branch’s history as a wheat plantation.

The Potomack Company’s Fine Collections Auctions in Alexandria, which conducted the auction for the Long Branch items earlier this month, will offer an antique appraisal clinic from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.

There will also be a Mr. And Mrs. Nelson Heritage Cornfield Trail, a section set aside for 19th century games, and light refreshments. People may bring their own picnics to eat on the property.

This weekend will also mark the beginning of Long Branch’s first Viewer’s Choice Art Competition, Ward said. Artists of any medium will be invited to come to the re-opening, and using the house and the property as inspiration, start a piece of work.

They have until Nov. 18 to submit a final work, and viewers will vote online in mid November to early December. The winner, who will be announced during the Long Branch Christmas weekend from Dec. 21 to 22, will receive an entire room at Long Branch to use as exhibition space throughout summer 2014.

Information

“History and Harvest Grand Re-Opening Weekend at Long Branch Plantation” will be held from Friday to Sunday at the historic home at 830 Long Branch Lane, Millwood.

For more information, contact Cassie Ward at cward@visitlongbranch.org or 540-837-1856 or go to visitlongbranch.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com