A national interpretative grant will help the Livingston House send visitors back to Reynoldsburg's pioneer days with hands-on activities that include trying on hoop skirts and corsets or spinning wool with a drop spindle.
Susan Parks, president of the Livingston House Society, said the Interpretive Project Grant from the National Association for Interpretation, although small at $321, will help docents and volunteers offer hands-on instead of "hands-off" history.
"We have period furniture that we have to tell children and visitors not to sit down on," she said. "The grant will help us create more hands-on activities, such as people learning how to use a wool-carding comb and a rope-maker, so they can see the process that was used for making wool thread or the beds in the house."
According to Jennifer McDowell, acting chairwoman of the Interpretative Grants Committee, the grants are designed to fund small projects by association members to enhance visitors' experiences at museums, parks, nature centers, zoos, botanical gardens and historical and cultural sites.
Livingston House Society member Mary Beth Hudson was the grant writer for the proposal, "Hands on Livingstons: A Paragon Family."
The Livingston House was the home of Alexander Livingston, the developer of the commercial tomato species known as "Paragon" and the founder of the Livingston Seed Co.
Hudson wrote in the grant application that the program will work "in conjunction with the state curricula to bring local history to life for school-aged children as well as enhance the existing educational programming offered by the Society ... such as Pioneer Day, American Girl Teas, Underground Railroad programming, etc."
"The Paragon family project is designed to be an activity for visitors that moves away from the 'don't touch' norm of most museums and to bring elements to the house so that kids can experience history firsthand," she said.
Parks said the grant also will allow the purchase of McGuffey readers, chalkboard sets and a stereoscope kit that will allow children to view old photos and slides.
She called the Livingston House "a diamond in the rough."
"The grounds are open as a park at any time and it is hardly ever crowded," she said. "There are swings for the little ones and an old-fashioned merry-go-round. People often spend time there and have a picnic."
Parks said the Livingston House Society has about 80 members.
"We hope to encourage the love of history," she said. "We do Pioneer Day in June and have concerts through the summer and it is open during Christmas on the Town activities.
"You can also rent the house for small activities such as wedding showers. It will hold up to 35 people.
"I love history and enjoy dressing in costume," she said. "We made candles and ragdolls last year for Pioneer Day," she said. "We also bring in sheep and chickens and other animals for that day."
Parks said the Livingston House Society also gives out a scholarship to Reynoldsburg High School seniors each year.
Built in 1864-65 and located at 1792 Graham Road, the Livingston House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Livingston was a horticulturist who is known nationally as the developer of the tomato as a stable commercial crop, according to the Livingston House Society. The house is administrated by the Society and owned by the city of Reynoldsburg.
Information about tours and rental of the building for events is available from the city's Parks & Recreation Department at 614-322-6806. Donations to the Livingston House Society may also be made through the department.