Yo waddup, my peasants? It’s ur gurl reviving a dead series on this blog.
So I hope you like the new layout of the blog, I try to keep things fresh here so I don’t get complacent with things; the last thing I want to get is boring! I promised you guys I would do a massive Museum Monday, so here we go!!
Now, when Erik and I do these concerts, we sort of step into people’s lives and we get to experience their stories every bit as much as they get to experience ours and– frankly– it’s probably one of the most humbling aspects of the job. It allows us to see the humanity in a building, something that might get lost in a larger museum, and allows us to connect to the site and make friendships. To the directors of these small sites, they’re more than a historic site; they’re a home. Now, home is something I’ve always wanted to find and seldom can– I think the word is hiraeth– and whilst at these small, tucked away sites, I get a small glimpse of home. I find home in the directors wanting to clean the site up to share with everyone, I find home in the people who have made the historical site their home as a caretaker, and I find home in the warmth of people’s passion for a small site. Let me tell you, it is the most comforting feeling in the world being in the presence of a site director or caretaker who genuinely loves their site. This post has been a long time coming and I feel absolutely terrible for delaying it, but without further ado, I present to you the first museum in the lineup.
The first small museum I want to draw attention to is the Isaac Pearson House
The day after the big Governors Island show was the delightful wine and cheese fundraiser at the Isaac Pearson House. It’s a beautiful house with a lot of potential and no one could be better suited for its renovation than Mike Skelly; when Erik and I first met him, he gave us the grand tour of the place and its history, the passion bursting from his chest and lighting the entire house up. The historical society applied for a grant this year which, if accepted, would double– which is exactly what the house needs! The Hamilton historical society, led by Skelly, has taken on the renovations head on through organizing fundraisers… And enter in Erik and myself to help with that! We participated as Isaac and Abigail Pearson for their engagement party and performed through the warm afternoon.
The Isaac Pearson house was first built in 1773 by Isaac for his new wife Abigail and there, the two lived exceptionally well in the beautiful, two story house. Isaac was the tax collector, a justice of the peace, and a New Jersey Provincial Congress delegate. In the beginning of the war, he was a patriot, but he changed his tune when the British offered amnesty for any patriots who signed an oath of allegiance to the Crown. Sadly, it doesn’t end well for the Pearsons because Isaac is shot and killed on his way to British occupied New Brunswick not two or three days after the Battle of Trenton. The house changed hands several times as a private home up until the last occupant who moved out in the 1990s (and whom I presume left the awful wooden paneling) and left it abandoned. It was officially put on the New Jersey and national Registers of Historical Places but still unchanged until about March of this year when Mike Skelly and the Hamilton Historical Society got their hands on it.
There’s no better person for restoring this mansion like Mike Skelly; Skelly is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable person who wants nothing more than to turn the Isaac Pearson house into a fun and inviting living history experience. His knowledge of 18th century architecture mixed with his desire to make history accessible will catapult this site into the well-deserved light and bring history to life in ways only seen 200 years ago. I have a lot of faith in the historical society and Skelly to breathe new life into this beautiful mansion and look forward to working with him again sooner than later!
The next museum is another home and it’s the home of someone unafraid to speak his mind and was proud of the heat he got for it #metho. The Thomas Paine Cottage is a small museum with a big impact on our nation’s history; it is home to the man who wrote for times that try men’s souls. I personally like to call him T-Paine, but that’s just me…
The charming little cottage in New Rochelle, NY is a home to any revolutionary be they artists or radicals and, certainly, the place for living history programs! The new staff for the Thomas Paine cottage is following in Paine’s footsteps for ousting the corrupt and opening its doors for everyone– Paine would be proud. The new staff have ushered in a new era for the Paine cottage filled with fun and entertaining programs starting with the absolute blast of a tavern night where I did historical tarot readings. Getting a little metaphysical here, as I am wont to do occasionally, the site’s energy did a complete and total 180 that evening and, by the night’s end, had the warmth and welcome its new staff intended. It was there I got to meet fellow artists such as Jenni Leigh who gifted me with a stunning crystal pendant after I gave her a reading.
The site’s history is wonderfully fascinating; it was Thomas Paine’s home from 1802-1806 after he had lived an absolutely hellraising life writing stirring papers inspiring the American and French revolutions in addition to trying to start a Revolution in England (because wherever he goes, there’s a revolution, I guess). It was at the Paine cottage where he wrote his last pamphlet, the Constitutional Reform, addressed to the citizens of Philadelphia. The house itself was restored and turned into a museum in 2009 and now will host more and more programs to inspire future revolutionaries to follow in its original occupant’s footsteps. I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s something rather magical about it with the new staff and the new energy put into it. I genuinely look forward to returning!
The final museum is the Tappantown Historical Society; a place near and dear to me. I have been doing readings for their annual Colonial Day since 2016 and I always look forward to visiting the beautiful houses on site which include the DeWint House and is right across from the Old 1776 House so I can always grab a cider after any show! The historical society’s president, Carol Lavalle, is absolutely the sweetest and a pleasure to work with.
The Tappantown Historical Society was founded in 1965 in order to preserve Tappantown’s history and to keep history alive through fun and interactive programs ranging from living history demos at fairs to participating in the annual Memorial Day parade in town. The historical society’s museum contains a wealth of artifacts relating to the revolution in New York as well as its most famous captive:
Baejor Major Andre. It was here in Tappan where Andre was imprisoned, tried, and hanged; from what my mind’s eye saw, he still hangs out where he was imprisoned, the 76 House, because he likes what they did to the place. I wouldn’t mind spending my afterlife in a nice restaurant… Maybe he’s onto something!
The small museum has various artifacts ranging from one of the medals presented to his captors to an 1870s grandfather clock to a ladies’ chatelaine, all incredibly preserved and available to everyone to see!
So on Friday night, Erik and I did a concert for their annual meeting– which featured wine and cheese (I’m starting to notice a theme here for these three events… To get Erik and me to perform, we can be bribed with wine and cheese. My mom would be so proud). We did a selection of songs including a brand new one which I SWEAR I have done before because I’ve never learned a song as quickly as I learned the new one we did, When War’s Alarms from The Camp by British Playwright Sheridan. Fun fact about this comic opera: General Burgoyne helped write it! The concert was a total blast and everyone enjoyed themselves; mirth was flowing while the vine was growing and sober souls at our joys were amazed. The end of the night, though, was probably the best part of the evening because I got to meet the sweet little caretaker of the museum and her husband. The caretaker was a German trained seamstress who was absolutely delightful to converse with; she showed me all of her beautiful cross stitch and embroidered pieces hanging on her walls. Some of them had the most intricate detail in them, some were paintings completely reworked by needle and thread. Meeting such talented and gentle souls humbles you in the most loving way possible; it reminds you that passions for needlework exist in different mediums. It’s meeting a fellow artist who uses the same medium you use in a totally different way and it’s terrific. The concert for the Tappantown Historical Society was a fun one because everyone was so pleasant and they were having just as much fun as we were. Doing events at places like these makes my heart happy because they’re just as passionate about history as Erik and I are.
Well, there you have it! I’m reviving Museum Mondays after a long hiatus and now, once a month, I’ll be bringing a small museum to your attention in the hopes you go and visit it. That’s why I chose these three for my big revival; I hope you take the time to go and visit these sites I featured in this post because they’re beautiful and beautiful souls take care of them. I’m so fortunate to be able to go to these small museums and share my gifts with them in the hops of bringing awareness to them and– temporarily– getting that “home” feeling I crave so dearly. Okay, I’m out, peasants! This Sunday I’ll be Miss Thirteen Colonies for the NYC Veteran’s Day Parade so I’ll be sure to blog about that! Until next time, I love you!