3025 French Road
Beaumont, TX 77706
3025 French Road
Beaumont, TX 77706
Adult $3.00; Seniors $2.00; Students $1.00
Darlene Chodzinski, Executive Director
Alicia Strahan, Administrative Assistant
Linda Purves, Education Coordinator
Beaumont Heritage Society in Beaumont, TX is one of more than 15,400 museums in the MuseumsUSA directory. Find an exciting museum to visit where you live or vacation today.
In 1967, a group of Beaumont citizens banded together to take on the task of protecting and preserving historic structures in the city. With a matching grant from the Junior League of Beaumont, the Beaumont Heritage Society's (BHS) first project was the acquisition and restoration of the John Jay French home. BHS received a charter from the Secretary of State of the State of Texas for "educational and civic purposes to preserve and assist in the preservation of landmarks, documents, pictures, names, mementos, and instruments of historic value " Bringing together people interested in history, BHS raised the funds necessary to restore the house to its venerable 19th-century elegance.
Today, seven period rooms, their furnishings, and six outbuildings stand as a legacy of this group's vision. In addition, a small archival library attracts researchers from all over the Southeast Texas area. Lectures, tours, and programs for persons of all ages complete the picture of a dynamic working organization whose programs are made possible through memberships and grants. A tanner and merchant by trade, John Jay French left his home in New England for the pioneer's dream of land and fortune. After several tries, French moved his family north of Beaumont and founded the French Trading Post. He built a house and tannery, and opened a trading post. The John Jay French house of 1845 is the oldest surviving house in Beaumont, and among the earliest houses in this part of the Texas Gulf Coast. The house was restored between 1968 and 1970 through extensive research and consultation with Raiford Stripling, a noted restoration architect.
Completion of the initial restoration and further investigation led the BHS to extend
interpretation of daily life in Texas to the overall museum grounds. A corn crib, tannery, privy, wash house, smoke house, chicken house, and operating blacksmith shop complete the complex.
Recently, the BHS acquired the David French house, circa 1850, located directly across the street from the museum. David French was the oldest son of John Jay. The David French home was restored in March 1998 and serves as the museum's visitor center and BHS administrative offices.
Within the community, the BHS has been responsible for helping to develop programs such as SPARE Beaumont, a joint effort with the City of Beaumont to provide a historical and architectural survey for the City; and "Beaumont USA Our Built Environment," a Junior High School educational program for increasing understanding of, and sensitivity to, the architectural environment. The BHS was instrumental in forming the Historic Landmark Commission, and the BHS Director serves as a Commissioner on that committee.
The collections in the John Jay French house and the outbuildings include 1,044 items which are used to interpret the daily life of the early Texas frontiersman and his family. These items were common during the mid-19th century, and many of them belonged to John and Sally French. The museum currently has two types of collection, permanent and educational.
Tintypes and daguerreotypes of members of the family are also part of the collection, as well as one family pie safes, two ladder-back cowhide bottom chairs, a wooden dough bowl, and a music box purchased by Mr. French in Galveston. One of the more interesting family artifacts is the family Bible in which is recorded much of the early family history. The collection also includes textiles, e.g., blankets, lace, and needlepoint. Furniture pieces include chairs, rockers, benches, stools, racks, tables, stands, chest, bureaus, storage boxes, trunks, wardrobes, bedstands, daybeds, clocks, mirrors, desks, and picture frames. Tableware pieces include but are not limited to platters, bowls, steins, goblets, plates, flatware, and salt cellars. Located in the kitchen are artifacts for food storage, food preparation, and cooking. Lighting devices and accessories appropriate to the time, art work, e,g., drawings, shadow boxes, hair wreaths, tools for building, agriculture, and blacksmithing, as well as clothing and accessories, toys and games, musical instruments, and optical aids are also in the collection.
The archival collection, housed in the offices adjacent to the museum, includes copies of the 1850 census, French's application for a land grant, the French family Bible, personal family documents, extensive photograph collection, and a copy of John French's trading post ledger. Over 400 pieces of literature are available, including tapes and slides. Files contain past research by local historians and staff on topics that include many of Beaumont's citizens, homes, and businesses. Topics that cover preservation and restoration, furniture, and occupations from 1820-1865 are non-circulating.
Each year, docent training and an update for previously trained docents is offered. This prepares them for the year of planned programs. Special programs are scheduled for large or special interest groups. In order to broaden outreach, the BHS provides traveling trunk exhibits to all fourth grades in the three-county area. Nearly 2,000 seventh grade students tour the museum while studying Texas history. All Beaumont second grade students visit the museum for a multiculutral experience. Mid-19th century crafts, demonstrations, and entertainment give these children a day of fun, learning, and hands-on experience. Other schools participate in special tours throughout the year. Although the majority of visitors are school children, adult programming and tourism are encouraged. Programs such as The History of Rice in Beaumont, Early 19th Century Medicine, Gardening with Edible Plants, out-of-town trips such as the Audubon Pilgrimage in Louisiana have all been successful. Murder Mystery Dinner Theater, Tex Fest, Ethnic Food Fair, Heritage Dinner, and our Christmas Candlelight Tour have been successful. The seven six outbuildings located on the site are considered an important part of the collection and are used regularly in program development. Blacksmithing is demonstrated and taught at the blacksmith shop. Farm tools are located on display in the corn crib; washday demonstrations and soap making are performed in the swept yard near the well and wash house. Occasionally, a special exhibit will be developed and incorporated into the permanent exhibit. Exhibits are not loaned out.
Quarterly newsletter; Portrait of a People: An Ethnic History of Beaumont, Texas
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