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Passion for preservation at Craik-Patton

Chris Dorst
Bri Jackson places a cover on a doll that was used by milliners to show ladies the latest hat styles. The doll is one of many antique furnishings and accessories dated before the mid-19th century in the Craik-Patton House, where Jackson is the new director.
Chris Dorst
The operating hours at the Craik-Patton historic house museum recently expanded to include all weekdays and some Saturdays. The fully furnished Greek Revival house was built in 1834.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Craik-Patton House's new full-time director, Bri Jackson, assumed her job June 4 and jumped right into plans to increase the museum's hours, freshen programming for children and adults, preserve the house and its contents and to initiate a volunteer docent program.Before her arrival, the historic house museum had been open Tuesday through Thursday during the months of April through October, partially because the director's position was part time. Now, Jackson is in her office and ready to lead tours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and on some Saturdays."I've given tours to 30 people in about 2 1/2 weeks," she said.The Craik-Patton House was built in 1834 by James and Julia Craik on the Midland Trail near what is now Dunbar Street. In the early 1900s, the Greek Revival house was moved to Lee Street to accommodate construction of Dunbar Street. In 1970s, the Colonial Dames of America in the State of West Virginia purchased the house for $1 and reconstructed it in its current location at 2809 Kanawha Blvd. E., near Daniel Boone Park.Jackson, 25, plans to bring history to local schools using programs similar to the ones she developed in her previous position as director of the historic North House Museum in Lewisburg. School tour groups are welcome at the house, but transportation costs often limit field trips, so Jackson plans to bring kid-friendly historic presentations to schools at no cost.A "Toys from the Past" presentation she developed for Lewisburg-area classrooms easily held most students' attention. Wooden toys like bilboquets (the toy with which the player catches a ball on a string in a wooden cup), spinning tops, Jacob's ladders and kaleidoscopes engaged the students while she slipped in a history lesson.She got them moving with bilboquets, which hones hand-eye coordination, and games such as blind man's bluff."They can't wait to get out on the playground and play blind man's bluff. They've never heard of it," she said.Jackson hopes that the presentation interests some children enough that they'll bring their parents to visit the Craik-Patton House. Adult activities on the horizon include a lecture series that would tie with the state's sesquicentennial celebration next year.Jackson has made the most of the three years since she graduated from the College of Charleston (S.C.) with degrees in historic preservation and English. Her résumé lists positions with the Historic Charleston (S.C.) Foundation and the Preservation Society in Charleston, and a job at the Historic Columbia Foundation in Columbia, S.C., in addition to her position with the North House. Her passion for historic buildings and their preservation led her to volunteer in each of those locations, where she was soon offered professional positions. In Columbia, "I bugged the director of collections there for an unpaid internship. After I worked for him for a while, he hired me. I led tours and worked on historic walking tour brochures," she said.After 10 months on the job in Columbia, she and her husband moved to Lewisburg where he enrolled in the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. Following her earlier action plan, she contacted the director of the North House Museum with an offer to volunteer in the historic house museum. The current director was leaving. Jackson was offered the job.When she realized her husband's residency would be in Charleston, Jackson contacted Craik-Patton House director Alex Franklin, who she met when he donated a children's dining set to the North House Museum. Franklin passed her résumé to Craik-Patton board President Jeannie Grubb, who contacted Jackson when Franklin recently resigned."She was coming from the North House and had that experience with a museum house," Grubb said. "She has an impressive résumé and a love for what she's doing."The Jacksons moved to Charleston May 26, and she assumed the now full-time position of Craik-Patton House director June 4.
Jackson grew up in Florence, S.C., where her mother took her and her siblings to visit many historic sites. The buildings and architecture interested her, but she didn't consider a career in it. "I never in a million years thought I'd be running a house museum," she said.As a English student at the College of Charleston, she attended classes on a campus that sit squarely in the midst of a Southern city known for its reverence of historic homes and buildings, but the preservation bug didn't hit Jackson until her junior year. She needed a class to fill a humanities credit requirement.A friend recommended a course in historic preservation."I switched to a double major in historic preservation and English. I've always had an appetite for history," she said. "Of course, in Charleston, S.C., it's kind of hard to ignore history."She volunteered at various historical societies, leading tours of the grand old homes and grounds. "I really just wanted to see the insides of the houses," she said.She honed her fascination with historic buildings and architectural styles into a brief but full career directing historic house museums. She leads tours, develops programs, writes grants and plans to digitize and catalog the collection contained in the Craik-Patton House.
"I will start doing the cleaning in the house. It should be done in a certain way," she said about protecting the antique furnishings. She's researching maintenance issues such as window treatments to mitigate damage from the sunlight that pours through the windows.She's already protective of the house and its contents."I've always been attracted to the Greek Revival style. I was married in a white Greek Revival house with pillars," Jackson said.Want to go?WHAT: Craik-Patton HouseWHERE: 2809 Kanawha Blvd. E., CharlestonWHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and occasional SaturdaysMORE INFO: Call 304-925-5341 or visit www.craik-patton.comReach Julie Robinson at or 304-348-1230.
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