Don’t you love the feeling of finding a real treasure? Maybe it’s a first edition book bought for a quarter at a garage sale or an old family photo album discovered in a box in grandma’s attic. That feeling of exhilaration is the same; It’s part bewilderment, part excitement and part an adrenaline filled urge to share your discovery with others. This is the feeling I got when I “discovered” Liberty Hall Museum right in my own backyard, on the campus of Kean University!
I first happened upon Liberty Hall while attending a private event with my daughter several years ago. When we were offered a tour of the exquisite gardens, we jumped at the chance to explore. We were so glad that we did! As we meandered through the well-manicured gardens we were regaled with tales of the property that dates back to the 1700’s. We soaked up the stories our guide shared with us as we relished the beauty of every garden section; each unique in its beauty and purpose. A special treat was noting a gorgeous pear tree that was original to the property and therefore over 200 years old. Fascinated does not begin to express how we felt at the end of the tour.
As we explored further we noted a beautiful Victorian style home on the property. This home, built in 1772, was the home of NJ’s first elected Governor William Livingston and generations of Livingston/Kean families. My daughter was dying to see inside and instantly declared that she wanted to live in this home! Upon hearing this declaration of love, a volunteer informed us of a program we might find interesting. The program is called, A Child’s View of History and it runs every Tuesday in July and August. The cost is $8.00 per child and $10.00 per adult. It runs at 11am and 1pm. Reservations are required.
On the first Tuesday in July we, along with some friends, embarked on our journey back in time. You see, the program invites participants to “time travel” back through the centuries in order to experience childhood just as the children who lived in this home had experienced it. We were tickled pink to join a costumed docent as we explored the first area which took us back to 1780. Here we learned about life from a child’s perspective as we were invited to touch and explore many of the artifacts. On our journey we continued our “time travel” through 1820, 1860, 1900 and 1940, always being led by a docent in period costume and always being invited to touch and participate. The girls were most fascinated by parlor where they learned “the language of the fan”, a special way for young ladies to communicate with suitors during the 1900’s. Certainly more subtle and sophisticated than the social media of 2017!
At the conclusion of the house tour we were directed to a gorgeous glass porch where we were served cookies, fruit and lemonade. We continued to ask questions and our guides happily shared all the history they knew. The view here was amazing and though we could have lingered all day we knew that there were still great activities ahead. Next we were led across the lawns to play some of the fun games the children of long ago enjoyed. WOW! The girls were surprised to discover that not only were the games challenging and fun but they did not involve any electronics!!! Finally, since we had learned monograms were regarded as prestigious during the 1940’s, the children were invited to create monogramed book marks with the beautiful material set before them.
As we wrapped up our day in the gift shop we all expressed how much we had enjoyed our day. It was exciting to note that there are many other programs available at Liberty Hall including apple and pumpkin picking in the fall, Wednesday afternoon tea and a variety of other tours. We look forward to returning for many of these as we enjoy this newly discovered treasure in our backyard!
Liberty Hall Museum is located at
1003 Morris Avenue
Union, NJ 07083
www.kean.edu/libertyhall and on Facebook and twitter