QA: New Gaineswood director excited about year ahead

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 12, 2007

Previously you worked as the site director for Magnolia Grove in Greensboro, and now you will also be working at Gaineswood. How will both of these positions work?

It&8217;s kind of a change in the model in how the two sites have been run. Previously, there was a site director at each site. Now, I&8217;ve been appointed site director here at Gaineswood, so now I&8217;m the director of both of them. We&8217;ll be able to hire other staff to be under me.

What kind of challenges or benefits do you see with having to direct both sites?

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Obviously, time management will be a challenge. But I see that there are really going to be more advantages than challenges, because instead of having two people doing the same thing twice it can be done once by one person. If I&8217;ve got to do something administratively for Magnolia Grove, I&8217;ve got to do it for Gaineswood too. In a way that&8217;s not doubling what I have to do, it&8217;s just like time and a half for our quarterly reports and how we report numbers and that sort of thing.

How long have you been involved with West Alabama historical sites?

I have been in West Alabama in Greensboro since 2002. I was previously at another commission site, Fendall Hall in Eufala, and I was transferred to Magnolia Grove.

How did you get interested in historic homes and places?

Growing up in Eufala, which is a town with a very strong historic preservation background, so it has always been an interest of mine. Other than that, I just fell into being site director at Fendall Hall. It&8217;s a very rewarding job. For someone who does have a passion for history, it&8217;s great and I end up meeting tons of different people. People tour old houses for a number of different reasons, whether they are interested in architecture, or interested their own family genealogy, or have become interested in an area because they were researching their own family or people who just love to travel. You get to meet so many different types of people. I would say that&8217;s the best part of the job.

Is the site director in charge of planning the programs for the site?

Yes. The director does everything because of the lack of staff. Ultimately, the director plans all of the events and then organizing committees to actually carry that out. There was a volunteer committee that carried out Harvest Fest. There is a volunteer committee that is coordinating the candlelight evening for Christmas on the River.

Are their large events also at Magnolia Grove?

We participate in the Highway 14 Antique Trail there are other different kinds of community events. We no longer do our Harvest Festival since staff was cut several years ago. That was a program we decided to cut due to lack of staffing and focus on other community programs that brought in large numbers. We are a partner in the Old Howard 100 Bike Ride that is sponsored by Samford University. We have a Christmas Open House. So we do a lot of outreach programs, like working with the library on their summer reading programs and things like that.

Do you see there being any kind of conflict with things going on at Gaineswood and at Magnolia Grove?

I&8217;m going to do my best not to have things scheduled on the same day. With Christmas on the River and the Christmas open House, they fall at different times. The open house is the second Sunday in December and Christmas on the River is the first weekend in December. I&8217;m not anticipating any problems like that.

Do you have any new programs you would like to do at Gaineswood?

I will probably be changing a little bit of the focus of the tour, especially to show some of the women&8217;s history of the site. I&8217;d like to give that a stronger emphasis because some really good research has been done on the Whitfield women, so I want to give them a little bit more of a spotlight. I like to be able to concentrate on how the house evolved over time, because anyone who spends 20 years building their home there is a lot to know about the process. As far as additions to programming right now, I don&8217;t have any specific plans. Heritage Appreciation Day is such a strong program for elementary school students. That has already grown from being two days in the past to being three days for 2008, so I&8217;m going to focus on programs that are in place right now.

Why do you think it is important for a community to have a historical site?

Every community needs to have pride in itself, and one of the strongest things a community can have is to be able to tell its story. Historical sites are what help a community to tell that story. Gaineswood is one of the structures that is not just a Demopolis landmark, it is a state landmark. People from all over the state recognize it.