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Historic Jacksonville, Inc., a newly formed non-profit, is making plans for educational programs, events, and activities that will breathe more life into Jacksonville’s historic buildings.

“Jacksonville’s economy relies on tourism,” points out Tim Balfour, secretary of the new organization and president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. “People may come here for Britt, for food and wine, or for history, but Jacksonville’s historic buildings are the core of their experience. But without programs and activities to expand that experience, our historic structures become just old buildings with dates on them.”

“You might say we’re picking up where the Jacksonville Heritage Society left off,” adds Carolyn Kingsnorth, president of the new organization and former president of the Heritage Society. “I think the Beekman House was the Heritage Society’s biggest success. We were able to raise most of the funding needed to rebuild the porches and replace the roof. We could not have done that without community support and involvement, but I also think it was the programming we were able to create for the House that made more community members care.”

BeekemanHouse-PrintHistoric Jacksonville, Inc. is working with the City and other local organizations to revive and expand that programming. “We’re fortunate that virtually all of the individuals who volunteered in the Beekman House Victorian-themed tour events and in the 1931 ‘Living History’ tours are excited about their return,” says Kingsnorth. “We plan to kick off with an old-fashioned Easter egg roll at the Beekman House on Easter Sunday afternoon and then begin theme tours and ‘Living History’ activities in May.”

Current plans call for partnering with Friends of Jacksonville’s Historic Cemetery on the second Saturday of each month from May through September to create a Jacksonville History Saturday. “It’s a natural fit,” says Kingsnorth. “And our 1931 Living History tours will offer another dimension. When they were created for the Heritage Society two years ago, every tour sold-out!”

She continues, “Too many Jacksonville residents have toured the Beekman House in the past and have a ‘been there, done that’ attitude. Yes, the contents of the house may not change much, but the abundant inventory of facts, events, and personalities provide a perpetual kaleidoscope of fascinating stories. Each month we will be looking at a different aspect of Victorian life and viewing it through the lens of the Beekman family and Jacksonville.”

Longer term, Historic Jacksonville, Inc. plans to offer regular Beekman House and Bank tours Thursday through Monday from May through September. “On Mondays the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is dark. Local tour offerings could make Jacksonville a destination for their patrons since over 80% come from out of the area,” explains Balfour.

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Additional tour offerings will require more docents, so Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is also looking for new volunteers. “Our Beekman House docents are wonderfully committed,” observes Kingsnorth, “but it’s interesting that most of them do not live in Jacksonville. We would like to build our Jacksonville base, as well.”

Historic Jacksonville, Inc. also wants to bring more youth into the programs. “One of our directors, Stephanie Butler, has been Programming Director for the Southern Oregon Historical Society,” Kingsnorth notes. “She is now Pre-College Youth Coordinator for Southern Oregon University’s Division of Continuing Education. Kristen Sullivan, another director, teaches history and English at Crater High School’s Business Academy. We’re hoping to tap their contacts and relationships while making history relevant for younger generations.”

She cites additional resources that Board members contribute to the organization. “In addition to Tim, Stephanie, Kristen, and myself, Whit Parker, the publisher of the Jacksonville Review, is a real visionary, always coming up with great ideas. Ken Gregg is an internationally-known photographer and graphic designer who has created a ‘look’ for us that communicates both the historic and the contemporary. And Kerri Hecox, a pediatrician and Trustee of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, is working with us on children’s activities.”

Future programming ideas being discussed include reenactments of historic trials in Jacksonville’s old City Hall, partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to update Jacksonville walking tours, and introducing Jacksonville ghost tours like New Orleans and Charleston. Monies raised from Historic Jacksonville activities will be invested in expanded programming offerings and historic building preservation.

“At this point, it’s one step at a time,” emphasizes Kingsnorth. “Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is in its infancy. But we’re encouraged by the community response. The ‘blessing’ of the City, partnerships with other organizations, and the support of local businesses and residents will create multiple opportunities for bringing Jacksonville’s historic buildings to life!”

For events and more information, please visit historicjacksonville.org.

Posted March 31, 2014