Thank you to Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, Site Manager, Colby Stevens for his recent update to the Johnston County Visitors Bureau on all the new experiences and amenities at Bentonville Battlefield.
While some COVID-19 restrictions did result in lower visitation, frustrated visitors, and postponed events, the Bentonville staff have pushed forward and used this opportunity to complete projects not tenable during normal conditions.
Stevens said, "While others hit the pause button, the Bentonville staff, socially-distanced, moved ahead with projects and research initiatives that place this battlefield and its interpretive measures among the best in the nation. While some Covid-19 restrictions are still in place, we are open, and we are excited about the future ahead."
Below is a list from Steven's on what's new at Bentonville.
The Harper House – Chad Jefferds, Programs Coordinator
The Harper House underwent some major changes this summer. Staff members took advantage of the shut down by rearranging the house to better reflect the limited information contained in accounts of the XIV Corps hospital there. Additionally, the changes to the arrangement of the house allow for greater access for visitors and more flexibility in each room with hopes of increasing programming held inside the house. The new layout also allows for climate-controlled artifact storage in two of the upstairs rooms.
This past February the NC Historic Sites Craftsmen installed new upper and lower porches on the house. The old porches, nearly 30 years in age, had long since served their purpose. After a fresh layer of stain is applied the new ones will be ready to greet visitors for years to come.
Temporarily closing this past Spring allowed staff members to catch up on research. This research was turned into a series of posts for social media that spotlighted individuals and artifacts from Bentonville. Besides social media posts, research time has allowed for the creation of a series of new outdoor tours, presentations, and historical discussions. Preliminary work was also completed on additional battlefield interpretation.
During the summer months, the staff installed a new outdoor classroom located beside the visitor center. The supplies for benches and wooden borders were graciously paid for by the Friends of Bentonville Battlefield. Since the Site reopened, the classroom has already been utilized by several groups and serves as the perfect location to socially distance visitors, students, and historians for our daily historic conversations and demonstrations.
New fencing was installed at several locations around the visitor center. First, fencing and parking bumpers were installed at the parking lot. The new fence and bumpers provide a visible and physical barrier between the parking lot and picnic areas. Fencing was also installed at the Michigan Engineers tour stop.
This summer staff cleaned out layers of pine straw and debris, cut limbs and trees, and restacked split rails around the cemetery. Years of pine straw and sediment had begun to stain the confederate headstones. The result is a more open space for visitors to enjoy and explore.
Visitor Services Upgrades
Several “upgrades” were made around the visitor center during COVID-19. The boxwood bushes in the flowerbeds surrounding the building were all removed and replaced with azaleas. Flowerpots now flank the front entrance and the benches out front have a fresh layer of stain.
New Backpack Initiative – Colby Lipscomb, Education Coordinator
Still in development, our new ExplorerPack program will provide opportunities for greater outreach to our younger visitors. Four different backpacks will be available for visitors to borrow, two that focus on the nature of Bentonville, and two that focus on the history of Bentonville. Each pair of backpacks will have one for ages 5-10 and another for ages 10+. Each backpack will feature 6-7 interactive activities that allow participants to explore the battlefield while they learn about that topic. Some activities include building their own drum, leaf rubbing, mapmaking, and Bentonville BINGO.
This program adds to the Junior Historian program already available for children of all ages which debuted in May of 2020. A short activity booklet, the Junior Historian Activity Book allows children a shorter but still fun and educational opportunity while they explore the battlefield.
New Parking Lot
During our prolonged closure the site staff installed a new temporary parking lot across the road from the visitor center. The parking lot was installed to provide visitors with access to the walking trails, monument area, and cemetery while the site was temporarily closed. We are delighted to report that during its first month, the parking lot greeted over 1,000 visitors! Plans are in place to expand and make the temporary lot a permanent fixture at Bentonville.
Lastly, if you enjoyed the video at the beginning of the blog and you want to know more regarding Singing on the Land - it is a virtual music project that celebrates the stories of historic sites across North Carolina through the voices of North Carolina musicians. Developed by North Carolina State Historic Sites and Properties in partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council and Come Hear NC, each installment of the series highlights one of North Carolina’s 27 state-designated historic sites. Bentonville's episode is below.
Thanks again to Colby Stevens and all the staff at Bentonville and the staff at NC Cultural Resources for their continued care of our attractions. Bentonville is open once again! We hope that you’ll make plans to visit and see the changes for yourself in the near future! Learn about daily happenings and up-coming seasonal events on the Site's Facebook Page or via their listing on our website.