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Press Release: Preserve Arkansas to Present “Behind the Big House” Program at Lakeport Plantation

Contact: Rachel Silva Patton
501-372-4757
rsilva@preservearkansas.org

For Immediate Release – March 9, 2017

Preserve Arkansas to Present “Behind the Big House” Program at Lakeport Plantation

LITTLE ROCK—Preserve Arkansas, in partnership with the Arkansas Humanities Council, Arkansas State University Heritage Sites, Black History Commission of Arkansas, and Lakeport Plantation, is proud to present “Behind the Big House” on April 28-29 at Lakeport Plantation in Lake Village, Arkansas. The Behind the Big House program moves beyond the “Big Houses,” or stately historic homes, to explore extant slave dwellings and interpret the experiences of the enslaved people who inhabited them. This workshop will include live historical interpretations and lectures to highlight the important contributions African Americans made to Arkansas’s history and provide a broad understanding of the importance of slave dwellings and their role in heritage tourism.

Registration is free, but space is limited. Register at www.preservearkansas.org by April 14. Registration does not include lunch. An optional box lunch may be pre-ordered for $12. For more information and the full schedule of events, call 501-372-4757 or visit www.preservearkansas.org.

This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Preserve Arkansas works to build stronger communities by reconnecting Arkansans to our heritage and empowering people to save and rehabilitate historic places. For more information about Preserve Arkansas or to become a member, contact Rachel at 501-372-4757, rsilva@preservearkansas.org, or visit www.preservearkansas.org.

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Lakeport Plantation’s Permanent Exhibits Win 2013 AASLH Award of Merit

            NASHVILLE, TN—June 2013—The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) proudly announces that the Lakeport Plantation is the recipient of an Award of Merit from the AASLH Leadership in History Awards for Lakeport’s Permanent Exhibits. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 68th year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. 
In September 2012, permanent exhibits were installed at the Lakeport Plantation house near Lake Village, Arkansas along the Mississippi River. Lakeport, an Arkansas State University Heritage Site, is one of Arkansas’s premier historic structures and the state’s last antebellum plantation house along the Mississippi River. The interpretation tells a remarkable story of Delta laborers, families and the plantation cotton economy that built and sustained the Lakeport house in 1859 until its restoration between 2002-2007.
The achievement of Lakeport’s permanent exhibits is telling this unique Delta story and its plantation heritage while maintaining the historic integrity of the Lakeport house and weaving together the stories of planters, enslaved laborers, sharecroppers, farm laborers, craftsmen, and preservationists. Since the house had changed little since its 1859 construction, the goal was to treat the house as the major artifact.  To meet that goal, unobtrusive exhibits, designed in collaboration with Quatrefoil Associates of Laurel, Maryland, complement the restoration and preservation of original architecture and historic paint finishes. No interpretation is placed permanently on walls; instead minimalist-styled exhibits tell Lakeport’s stories Original furniture and smaller artifacts, displayed in vitrines, complement Lakeport’s interpretive themes throughout the house. Other innovative media engage visitors: projection of images, text and video onto walls; oral history kiosks, and soundscaping makes the house feel inhabited.
            This year, AASLH is proud to confer eighty-eight national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, books, and organizations. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history. Presentation of the awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2013 AASLH Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday, September 20. The banquet is supported by a generous contribution from the History Channel.
                The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and
local history throughout the United States.  The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also brings public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena.  For more information about the Leadership in History Awards, contact AASLH at 615-320-3203, or go to www.aaslh.org.
The American Association for State and Local History is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history.  From its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH provides leadership, service, and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful in American society.  AASLH publishes books, technical publications, a quarterly magazine, and monthly newsletter.  The association also sponsors regional and national training workshops and an annual meeting.

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Gifts of 2012

The Season of giving is the perfect time to reflect on the gifts Lakeport has received in 2012.

In April Lakeport received nineteen of the original balusters that had been removed and placed in Helen Epstein Kantor’s Greenville home ca 1950. Read more about the balusters in the post:  Balusters Return to Lakeport!

Balusters in Kantor house, 2008

In June Richard M. Johnson, brought Lakeport a number of goodies for a long-term loan. We received several books; Two books, from the 1830s, belonged to Richard’s great-grandfather Lycurgus L. Johnson; the remainder of the books belonged to Richard’s grandfather, Dr. Victor M. Johnson and included medical texts, a bee keeping manual, and literary volumes. Richard also brought Lakeport his grandmother Martha Johnson’s beaten biscuit maker, his grandfather’s bee foundation maker, and a cradle that was in use in the family from the 1870s into the 1970s. Richard also donated a love seat which needs restoration.

In September, during the opening of our exhibits, we received several donations.

Cat Johnson Pearsall, daughter of Robley Johnson, donated her father’s baby book, family newspaper clippings and her father’s final written memories of Lakeport. Inside her father’s baby book we found a lock of young Robley’s hair and his first photo from Thanksgiving Day 1908 in Greenville, Mississippi.

Victor & Martha Johnson with son Robley, Thanksgiving Day, 1908, Greenville, Miss.

The 1908 photo’s location in Greenville has proved a bit of a mystery. There seems to be an iconic rose window in the background that might be a church. Victor and Martha were introduced at the First Christian Church in Greenville, a church his sisters Linnie Johnson and Annie Johnson Starling founded. But the structure in the background doesn’t seem to resemble known images of the Christian Church (like this one at the Mississippi Department of Archives & History) or any other turn of the century church in Greenville.


Bill Gamble, a Greenville resident and a descendant of Lyne Starling, donated Lyne’s 1871 Yale Yearbook. The Starlings, led by William Starling, purchased Sunnyside Plantation in 1868. Lyne’s brother Charles also attended Yale that year and married Annie Johnson at Lakeport in 1878. You can read about their sister Lollie’s memories of Lakeport in the post Laura (Lollie) P. Starling (1854-1946).

On a related note: Ben & Phyllis Starling, residents of Botha, Alberta and descendants of Charles Starling, donated William Starling’s Civil War notebook and surveyor’s hand level (ca. 1863).

Finally, two portraits were shared with Lakeport.  One is a portrait of Sam Epstein, who bought Lakeport in 1927 from Victor Johnson. It is on loan to Lakeport from Lynda Festinger White, grand daughter of Mr. Epstein.

Sam Epstein, ca. 1940

Ed Warren, grand nephew of Frank H. Dantzler, Jr. donated the portrait of Mr. Dantzler’s mother, Julia Drake Dantzler. The portrait hung at Lakeport while Mr. Dantlzer managed Lakeport from 1927-1950 (Dantzler partly owned Lakeport between 1927-1940).

Julia Drake Dantzler, mother of Frank Dantzler, Jr., ca. 1880

Thank you to all the donors in 2012 and years past! Donations deepen our understanding of Lakeport’s history and create a richer experience for visitors.



New Exhibits Installed at Lakeport

Lakeport has entered a new phase with the installation of permanent exhibits.  Designed in collaboration with Quatrefoil Associates in Laurel, Maryland, the exhibits are based on years of restoration and research in family records, archives and oral histories. The exhibits tell the stories of the house, the restoration, and the people who lived and worked at Lakeport. Yet, they are designed to be unobtrusive, blending in with the main exhibit–the Lakeport house. On display now are artifacts found during restoration and original items donated back to the house.



Press Release: Lakeport Plantation to Celebrate Fifth Anniversary

For release: August 27, 2012

Lakeport Plantation to Celebrate Fifth Anniversary
The Lakeport Plantation will celebrate its Fifth Anniversary Sept. 28-30, 2012.  The three-day event will include restoration team presentations, guided tours, opening of new permanent exhibits, and a Lakeport Family Reunion. 
The plantation home is an Arkansas State University Heritage Site, built ca. 1859 for the Johnson family of Kentucky.  One of Arkansas’s premiere historic structures; it has changed little since its original construction and is the last antebellum plantation home in Arkansas on the Mississippi River. The Sam Epstein Angel family of Lake Village deeded the house to the university in 2001. Restoration began in 2002, using the highest level of U. S. Department of Interior standards for rehabilitation, and the restored home opened to the public in 2007.
Since its opening, thousands of visitors from all over Arkansas, the United States, and the globe have toured the plantation.  Lakeport now enters a new phase with the installation of permanent exhibits, designed in collaboration with Quatrefoil Associates in Laurel, Maryland.  Exhibits are based on years of restoration and research in family records, archives and oral histories.
 “The house itself will always be our major exhibit,” stated Dr. Ruth Hawkins, executive director of Arkansas Heritage Sites at ASU.  “We wanted to enhance the visitor experience, however, with unobtrusive exhibits that tell the stories of the house, the restoration, and the people who lived and worked at Lakeport.” 
New exhibits also will display artifacts found during restoration and original items donated back to the house.  Dr. Blake Wintory, director of Lakeport Plantation, said his personal favorite is a case full of artifacts, dating between 1860 and 1970, which were found behind mantels during restoration. “From the time the Johnsons moved into the house in 1860, people began losing pictures, letters, business cards and other objects behind the mantels,” Wintory said.  “These lost and found artifacts are a fascinating record of their lives.” 
The Lakeport Family Reunion will include descendants of the Johnson family, other residents of Lakeport, and descendants of African Americans who lived and worked at Lakeport as enslaved laborers and later as tenant farmers.
Early registration will take place from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28 at the Guachoya Cultural Arts Center in Lake Village. Permanent exhibits will be unveiled at the plantation house at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, followed by presentations related to new discoveries at Lakeport from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the Lakeport lawn. 
Saturday afternoon events will include a 2 p.m. tour of the Epstein Cotton Gin in Lake Village, led by Sammy E. Angel, and a 3:30 p.m. guided walking tour of downtown Lake Village by Rachel Silva of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.  A social hour at the restored historic Tushek Building begins at 5 p.m., followed by a Homemade Spaghetti Dinner at 6 p.m. at Our Lady of the Lake Parish Hall.  The dinner will include a presentation by community historian Libby Borgognoni on Chicot County’s Italian history. 
            On Sunday, Sept. 30, a panel of Johnson descendants will present “Memories of the Family” at 10 a.m., followed by “Memories of the Community” featuring Lakeport area residents at 11 a.m.  A noon barbeque lunch will end the celebration.
The three-day event is open to the public, but registration is required by Sept. 14 and there is a charge for the meals.  For information on registration, visit http://lakeport.astate.edu,   call 870.265.6031, or email lakeport.ar@gmail.com.
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Lakeport’s Floor Cloth — Another Discovery

The ca. 1860 floor cloth was one of the most exciting finds during Lakeport’s restoration.  
The wall to wall (15’ x 9” x 26’ 2”) floor cloth (or oil cloth) was rediscovered in the entry room during restoration, having been previously documented by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program in the 1970s.  Canvas floor cloths were often painted to give them the look of carpet, but with increased durability.  The floral and medallion composition of the design conforms to known woven carpet patterns of the period.
Conserved sections of Lakeport floor cloth
     The two sections displayed have been cleaned and conserved by Becky Witsell’s Studio Werk in Little Rock.  Analysis revealed the cloth, painted with fourteen colors, is “composed of Bast fibers which are linen, flax, hemp or jute.”  


     Additionally, two labels were discovered underneath the floor cloth, which also transposed on the flooring.  In the southeast corner a shipping label states, “L. L. Johnson, Lakeport, Ark.”  While at the threshold to the entry of the home, a worn dealer’s mark partially reads, “Fr[om] Hi[?], Louisville, KY.”

Shipping Label, Southeast Corner

Negative image of Lakeport entry threshold shows some of the dealer’s label.
     The worn dealer’s label has always been a source of frustration.  The fact that it read Louisville, KY is interesting, because the Johnson’s are from Kentucky and other materials for the house are also coming from that area–Wallace & Lithgow Stove, as well as the mantels (Madison, Indiana).  But we have always wanted to know who “Hi[?]” was.  Well, thanks to a little bit of historical research, we can, with some certainty, say that the importer of the floor cloth was the firm of “Hite & Small” in Louisiville, KY.  

From the entry floor we can make out the “Fr[om] … Hi[?]…Louisville, Ky”.  

From knowing that, we looked in the 1859 Hawes’ Kentucky State Gazetteer and Business Directory on microfilm and found “Hite & Small” under “Hi”.

Since they are importers, the floor cloth could very well be made somewhere else [There were floor cloth makers in Kentucky in the mid-19th century].

There is also an 1859 City Directory online (difficult to search thru, though).  There, we find Hite’s and Small’s full names (William C. Hite and George W. Small)

Hite seems to show up in the 1860 Census as a 37 year old, Engineer born in Ireland with $800 real estate, $200 personal estate.  (not so sure about it though).   While, Small is a 45 year old, Kentucky born Merchant worth $40,000 real estate, $30,000 personal estate.
Hite & Small advertisement, Louisville Daily Journal, Feb 1, 1859



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