You may have noticed several posts on our Facebook page about fundraisers. Be it our Whaley Dinner Club event or our FarmRaiser. I just wanted to explain what our fundraising needs are at the moment.


As I have mentioned, I am trying to get the Whaley House out to the community. And by out, I mean physically out. With the museum closed, our programming needs to take place outside and, for the most part, offsite. This means that we need to rethink our events and the ways that we can engage people at them. This, coupled with the fact that we lost some things in the fire and the rest is packed away for storage and cleaning, means that we need to create new programs. That always requires new funds.

We hope you will support us as we try to think of innovative ways to see you all out and about this summer. It’s looking like it will be at least a year before things are finished. I can say that I personally miss inviting people into the Whaley House and sharing its story with everyone, but we will be around! You can see us at Applewood’s 100th Birthday Party, our Victorian Picnic, Family Fun Night at Applewood, and, of course, at various Lumber City Base Ball Club events.

Swing, Batter!

“For it’s one, two, three strikes” …sing it with me… “You’re out at the old ball gaaaaame!”


Well that was fun!  I hope you were all singing along in front of your computer with me! I also hope you all are ready for another season of vintage ball with the Lumber City Base Ball Club! Our first home game was played on April 30 and you can catch us next Saturday, May 21, starting at noon!

This year, in addition to regular games, the Lumber City Base Ball Club will host two vintage base ball tournaments, the first of which is May 21. The Stockton Cup is named after Colonel Thomas Stockton, who lived right here in Flint. His house, now the Stockton Center (find out more about this site and the history of the Stockton family here!), was built in 1872 and is open for various events today. The tournament, though, will see four teams competing for, what is sure to become, the coveted Stockton Cup. Other prizes will be given out as well, including the Maria Stockton Award for Gentlemanly Conduct.


A 2015 game in Saginaw against their Old Golds

If you’ve never been to one of our games, I would greatly encourage it. Not only is it a nice reason to be outside on a lovely day (weather permitting, of course), but it’s an interesting look into the history of base ball. Our players are dressed different, they have their own lingo, they don’t wear gloves, and they seem more supportive of one another than a game of ball today. It’s not uncommon for the first baseman to congratulate a runner on the quality of his strike (hit). And you know things are going well when shouts of “Huzzah!” are heard. It’s okay to just clap your hands as well, though.

The Whaley House is also looking forward to having a stronger presence at the games this year. With the museum closed for restoration, the games provide a great opportunity for us to talk to community members about the museum after the fire and to show that we are still around!

We hope to see you all next Saturday! Check out a complete Lumber City schedule, as well as the location of our field, on our website.

Owning Your Visit

How would you describe your last visit to an historic house museum? Was it business as usual? Was there a standard guided tour where the purpose of each room was noted, along with the period of the furniture? That, in my experience, is a standard historic house museum visit. In my recent Charleston visit, that was what happened. Velvet ropes kept me from wandering too far into the rooms. We were ushered from one room to the next, feeling as though lingering or get a perfect picture of the room held up the show.


It’s important to have time to take in the small details.

Now, I’m not necessarily complaining, I still loved touching the rail of the staircase and hoping that George Washington had also touched it when he stayed at the house (history nerd moment!). But, could there have been more? When visiting the plantations, we opted not to pay extra for the house tours, because wandering the grounds at our leisure, watching the heritage breeds of animals, and taking in the look of the house from the outside was far more intriguing. Obviously a house in the middle of a city can’t have a farm, but what can we learn from these plantation experiences?


This image is from the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. The second floor of the building was used for important city meetings in the eighteenth century. Now you can wander around and just BE there. It also made leaving on my own more difficult. Just five more minutes!

What did I enjoy the most about the plantations? The opportunity to control my visit was like an historical choose your own adventure book. I was presented with a list of activities, the times at which they would take place, and I just got to be there. I could walk the nature trails, take in the sun, and watch the alligators sun themselves mere feet from me. How can we replicate this experience at the Whaley House.


At Middleton Place I could’ve sat for hours and watched the alligator and turtles in front of an eighteenth-century chapel and ice house on the grounds.

Self-Guided tour days are an option. This allows individuals to enjoy the home at their own pace. We have our docents stationed throughout the house, ready to answer any questions you may have.

Available seating would allow people to sit down and just enjoy the rooms. This, coupled with some activities (board games, letters to read, a sewing activity etc.), might make for an enjoyable time that visitors could customize.

Extended Hours that could include a time for people to explore on their own, but also take part in a scheduled tour may be an ideal combination. This could allow people to explore the home on their own, learn about it in a tour, then revisit some of the things they want to see a bit better once the tour ends.


We want visitors to have time to feel like they are part of the building’s history, not just a passerby.

Since we have already worked to improve the content of our tours, by adding more historical context to the information we know about the Whaley family, improving the visitor experience to fit the needs, interests, and schedules of every visitor who walks through our doors is of the utmost importance.

What do you think? How would you like something like this? What have been your experiences at various historic sites? We look forward to hearing from you!




The Importance of Preservation

Recently, my husband and I took a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. I had never been and, as an historian specializing in the American Revolution, it was on my bucket list of places to visit. I had a long list of things to do including visiting museums, historic plantations, nature hikes, and more. In the four days we spent there, we only made it though half of the list. Now, I had compiled quite a long list of things to see and do, but we also just spent a lot of time wandering around the city, because we loved being there!


The Heyward-Washington House

It was beautiful, the weather was lovely, and Charleston was so full of history! Alleys harkened back to the 18th-century city design. We toured dungeons that the British had used to hold treasonous patriots during the Revolution. The steeples of churches that had welcomed centuries of parishioners dotted the city skyline. We even passed by houses that signers of the Declaration of Independence and ratifiers of the Constitution had called home. I was in history heaven, to say the least.



Charleston was founded in 1670, so it makes sense that they have 96 buildings on the National Parks Register of Historic Places, compared to Flint’s 26. Charleston has a museum, an historical society, and a preservation society; it seemed like every other building had a plaque on it stating the year it was built and who had called it home. Churches in the city (Charleston holds the nickname “The Holy City” for a reason) claimed to have the oldest congregation, the oldest building, cemeteries that held prominent Americans, and more! If they could be the first of something, they would claim it. I found it inspiring.

Although I felt a tinge of jealousy for this rich and illustrious history, it made me appreciate the structures we have here in Flint even more. Some were houses, some were businesses. Some, like the Durant-Dort Carriage Company Headquarters, are national landmarks. The list includes museums, offices, theaters, and more.Today we watch so much history being ripped down around us, that saving those few buildings that can be saved becomes ever more important. I have traveled to Europe (Greece and Italy to be exact) and the history you find there is so incredibly rich and attracts people from all over the world, as does a city like Charleston, or others like Boston (another history-rich city I’ve had the opportunity to explore) and they are able to preserve their history for the future and turn it into an asset for their residents.

Durant Dort

The Durant-Dort Carriage Company Headquarters

Presently, a cohort of public history professionals are working to promote the History Relevance Campaign to help spread the message that history is vitally important to life today. These individuals drafted a Value Statement which can be found here, but it emphasizes the value that history has in our communities. In addition to explaining the ways that history helps to develop critical thinking skills and reinforces civic duty, it explains that preservation can be a “catalyst for economic growth.” People are drawn to cities with a rich heritage and an appreciation for it. Creative and innovative people want to be involved in communities that are unique and have a strong sense of culture and heritage. Additionally, it can help bring in visitors and the money they spend while visiting.

Additionally, history is an important feature of a location’s sense of place. It illuminates who lived here, what they were like, the struggles they endured, and the successes they celebrated. History can help us appreciate the work done by generations before us. We can learn important lessons about how we should and should not act. And we learn about the shared memories, traditions, and responsibilities that unite us as a community. Without these reminders sprinkled throughout the city, it’s so easy to forget the past that unites us all as members of the Flint community. This is why preservation is important to the city and why we work so hard to ensure that the Whaley House continues as an important sentinel of  Flint’s past. If we don’t preserve, then who will?



Community Asset



As things in the rebuilding process are moving along, I have been able to dedicate a lot of time to thinking about and envisioning how the Whaley House can become a space for the community when it reopens and I have some ideas.

Instead of just being open for tours on the weekends, we want to have family days that will feature Gilded-Age board games, story time for kids, and an opportunity for people to explore the house on their own. And, if you’ve already seen everything the house has to offer, you can just enjoy the space with your family and take part in a game of the “Mansion of Happiness” or Charades!

history is timeless groupshot

We additionally want to open the space up to be a workspace for everyone! One idea is to use the house as a quiet work environment some nights. The house has an amazing and inspiring atmosphere, so why not allow others to share in the inspiration I’m able to feel from working in there. So, if you are working on coursework, writing, sketching, editing photographs, or anything else, you can find a welcoming home, where people once did similar things and Robert and Mary used to think great thoughts!

What would you like to see at the Whaley House? What do you think about these ideas? Do you have others? We’d love to hear your feedback! We want our doors to be open for you!

RJ at the Door


Programming During the Restoration


Although the Whaley House is currently closed for regular operations, we are still busy planning programs that will take place throughout the spring and summer. The last thing we want is to remain closed up and silent during these unfortunate months that we aren’t open. So, here’s the low down on ways you can see the Whaley House in the upcoming months!

We had already intended on partnering with Edible Flint this year, but after the fire we realized this would provide us a very important opportunity for off-site programs. We have two events scheduled…

Distribution Day

On May 18 Edible Flint will be distributing their starter kits filled with seeds and seedlings for city residents to use in building their own backyard gardens. We will be there providing information about the ways nineteenth century families used fresh vegetables and fruits in their own diets!

A Vicorian Picnic

On June 25 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm we will be hosting A Victorian Picnic at the Edible Flint Demo Garden, located across from Hurley Hospital. The event will be filled with Gilded-Age yard games, food, and festivities. Period attire is strongly encouraged!

We are excited about these new programs, but we are still continuing a few Whaley classics.

Quilting Bee Workshop with Flint Handmade

photo 2(4)

Our Quilting Bee has been continuing off-site this year on the third Saturday of EVERY month! We were having so much fun in 2015, that we decided to increase our meeting frequency this year. We have been scheduling our locations a few at a time, so here is our schedule through May! We are still meeting from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm.

March 26 at the Flint Institute of Art

April 16 at Totem Books

May 21 at Sloan Museum’s Halfway Cafe

Lumber City Base Ball Club


Our vintage base ball team is back at it this year! The season’s home games are listed on our website. The bolded events are new tournaments, so stay tuned for more information!

There are going to be more events slowly added to our lineup, but this is a great place to start as we conceive new ideas and ways that they museum can serve you!



Secrets Revealed

Another interesting aspect of moving through the fire restoration process (which at this point means the demolition, but that seems like such a scary word) has been the secrets we have discovered underneath floors and behind walls. We ran a series of three “Skeleton and Secrets” tours to show visitors some of these discoveries, teach them about the house’s architectural features, and to talk about the fire restoration process.


From the third floor we can see up into the rafters to get a view of the inside of the roof we never could before. 

This has also been one way that we have been able to remain positive through the selective demolition of the house; we have learned SO much about the house! We always knew that the Whaleys had purchased a two-story, square, Italianate house and that they extensively remodeled it, but we didn’t know exactly what that meant. Now, however, we can see in the floors and walls where they added on the various alcoves and bays. We can also say with certainty, that the original house ended at what is now the music room and library. The Whaleys added on the dining room and kitchen on the first floor, as well as the maid’s quarters. The story of the house, then, becomes that much richer. We can see in the types of wood used where the McFarlan Home made alterations and then where those involved with the museum in its infancy changed it back. The house itself is as much a living, changing, dynamic entity as the family legacy preserved in the museum’s name. Whereas before the house seemed like an old and honorable place to keep artifacts, memories, and stories, it now stands as a great artifact and story in and of itself! Its bones, its skeleton if you will, can tell the stories of 150 years and, with our careful work, it will continue to accumulate stories.


In addition to the items noted above, here are a few more things we found out about the house as the walls, floors, and ceilings were removed.


If you look closely you can see a painted pattern on the floor boards that we believe dates to the family who lived in the house before the Whaleys. This was on the second floor hallway.


These old gas lines, that would’ve powered wall sconces, were uncovered in Laura’s room. You can also see the later electrified outlets above it. That’s two generations of technology on one wall! 


These are the mechanisms that kept those large pocket doors sliding in their track with ease!