“I’m really here as a gopher if they need anything,” she said before leading a couple of visitors on a tour.
The cabinetmaker’s workshop -- the 15th permanent structure on the property -- will be used to teach classes in the colonial crafts of cabinetmaking, chairmaking and coopering (repairing casks and tubs), Thompson said. Any fees cover the cost of materials, and the instruction is free, she said.
It’s clear the park is not a museum but an active learning center that offers living history demonstrations on the last Saturday of the month.
Thompson, an antiques dealer, founded the park on the site of the old North Augusta waterworks 20 years ago, convincing city leaders her vision of breathing life into North Augusta history was much more than a dream. Her argument was persuasive, and the Olde Towne Preservation Association (the non-profit group that operates the park) began leasing the 7½ acres of land from the city and re-building history. Though still growing, the park features a mercantile, tavern and concession, meeting house, smokehouse and forge, and a recently completed colonial-style barn that is used for workshops, classes, meetings and receptions.
“We rent the use of the barn to groups,” Thompson said, adding the some organizations don’t pay. “We don’t charge the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.”
The park is visited by more than 20,000 people each year, officials say -- some are neighborhood folks who enjoy the little village’s tranquility, and many are school children … who come by the busload.
Thompson tells the story of a young boy who was none-too-excited about visiting the park, but after watching a blacksmith at work, he was hooked.
“When his father said it was time to go, he begged him to let him go back to the forge,” Thompson said. And that kind of reaction is not uncommon, she said.
If you’re going:
Living History Park is located at 299 W. Spring Grove Ave., North Augusta. It is open seven days a week, and admission to most events is free.