What Is Beekman House?

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti heard her coming all the way across the yard. He peeked through the window, and then he hurried to open the back door. Mac was running so fast, he was afraid she couldn’t stop to knock.

“Guess what! Guess what! Guess what!” Mac shouted as she slid into the kitchen. “Guess what we get to do!” She twirled twice and fell into a chair.

“You’d better tell me quick,” Joseph said. “You look like you’re going to explode. Your face is as red as your hair!”

“We get to work at the Beekman House!” Mac exclaimed. “You and I! We get to work at the Beekman House! We get to dress up in costumes and pretend we are living in 1911!” She stopped talking to catch her breath.

“What are you talking about?” Joseph asked.

“Yes. What are you talking about?” G.M. asked as she walked into the kitchen.

Mac looked at G.M. Her eyes glowed with excitement. “Mom says they want to try something different for the holidays at the Beekman House. They have so many kids come on field trips this time of year that the museum people want to have a kid working there too. Besides the grown-ups. And they asked Mom if I would like to do it, and I said, ‘Sure! Of course, I would!’ And I asked if Joseph could work with me, and they said OK. It’s going to be so unbelievably cool! I always wanted to be a volunteer!”

“I don’t even know what the Beekman House is,” Joseph complained. “How do I know if I want to work there?”

“Oh, dear,” G.M. said. “I guess I haven’t taken you to the Beekman House, have I? I’ve been neglecting your education,” she added with a grin. She looked at Mac. “I’ve got to get back to my painting,” she said. “You tell him about it.”

“We have to go to the museum right now to try on our costumes,” Mac said, jumping up. “I’ll tell him on the way.”

“OK,” G.M. said with a wave of her hand. She started back down the hall to her studio. “Come right home when you’re done, though. Joseph’s cooking supper tonight.”

“Wait a minute,” Joseph protested. “I don’t want to go try on any costume! I don’t even know if I want to do whatever it is you’re talking about!”

“Of course, you do!” Mac said, twirling once again. “Have I ever gotten you into anything that wasn’t wonderful?”

Joseph grabbed his jacket from the hook by the back door. He stood on the porch and zipped it up. “Now tell me about the Beekman House,” he said. “I want to know what I’m doing before we get to the museum, and it’s only three blocks away. So hurry up and talk.”

“You know Jacksonville is old,” Mac began. “In fact, the whole town is sort of like a museum with all the old buildings and everything. And besides the real museum where my mom works, there is something called a Living History program. That’s the Beekman House,” she explained.

“What’s Living History?” Joseph asked. “I mean, how can something be alive if it’s history? History is old stuff!”

“Right!” Mac exclaimed. “That’s what makes Living History so cool! Haven’t you ever wished you could visit some other time—like a long time ago? Like be really traveling in a real wagon train across the prairie? Or be right there crossing the Red Sea with the children of Israel?”

“Yeah,” Joseph admitted. “I guess so.”

“Well, in the Living History program at Beekman House, everybody who volunteers there pretends they are living in the year 1911. They do everything in the house just like the Beekmans did when they really lived there. And when tourists come or kids come on field trips, it’s like they’re going back in time to the year 1911. The visitors get to see what the people then were like, and what they did, and what they wore. It’s kind of like a play. Sort of,” Mac said.

“Hmmm,” Joseph muttered. “So what do we have to do?”

“Well, you’re going to be like a neighbor boy who was hired to do chores—chop wood for the wood stove and pile it up and sweep and stuff like that. And I’m going to be the maid’s daughter. I’m going to help wash clothes and help cook and I don’t know what else.”

“Are we going to get paid for this?” Joseph asked curiously.

“Of course not!” Mac replied, jumping over a puddle in the sidewalk. “We’re volunteers! But you will get to eat some of the cookies I help bake in the wood cook stove. They will be fantastic cookies!”

Joseph stopped. “So I have to get dressed up in a costume and have tourists watch me chop wood—which I don’t know how to do—and eat cookies that you will probably burn?”

“Right!” Mac said.

Joseph grinned. “Sounds like fun!”

Just then they came to a big, two-story, yellow house with white trim and a large lawn in front. A neat white picket fence surrounded the yard.

“We’re here,” Mac announced as they turned up the walk. They climbed the big stone steps to the museum’s tall front door. Mac pushed it open.

“Hi there, Mac,” the woman behind the front desk said. “Your mom’s in the office.”

Mac made a quick right turn and went through a black door with a sign that said “Private” in gold letters.

Mrs. Evans looked up from her computer. She smiled. “Are you guys here to try on your costumes?” she asked. She raised her eyebrows at Joseph. “Did Mac talk you into helping her with her new volunteer work?”

“I guess so,” Joseph said. “But what do I have to wear?”

Mrs. Evans stood up. She pushed aside a drape that was hanging across a doorway. There was a closet behind the drape and a wooden rod holding lots and lots of hangers full of clothes. “Well, now, let’s see what we have that will fit you,” she said.

Continued next week

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