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Living History Park showcases 18th century America in the 21st century

Dressed in colonial clothes, working in the blacksmith's forge and the tavern, the Living History Park in North Augusta puts on display the lifestyle and its accompanying hardships of the 18th century.

The park, which opened 31 years ago in North Augusta, came out of an event hosted at Riverview Park when creating the athletic complex.

Lynn Thompson, the president of the Olde Town Preservation Association with the Living History Park, recreated the burial of Charles Hammond. Hammond was buried in North Augusta, after having served as the governor over the Louisiana Purchase.

“I realized that people didn’t realize how much of the revolution was fought in this area. There were some good turning points down here,” Thompson said. “So that is why we decided that we wanted to do something to make history really come alive.”

From there, Thompson worked to lease the property from the city. Amongst their deal, the park pays $100 per year in rent. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit is responsible for all other property maintenance.

Thompson felt that it was important to educate children and adults through reenactments and hands-on experiences about the past through the colonial lifestyle. The park, located at 299 West Spring Grove Avenue, features 25 buildings and gardens that resemble a small colonial city from 1735-1780. 

“One thing is that it feels like stepping back in time and the other thing that is interesting is kids nowadays don’t want to learn anything,” Thompson said. “When they get out of school on Friday they want to be out of school. They don’t want to learn anything or deal with anything. And by coming down here, I tell them, don’t tell them they are going to learn something. Just let them come, and then they want to come back.”

Locals, like Bob Kaltenbach of Augusta, Georgia, who works in the blacksmith's forge, and Ding Denglinger, who moved from North Carolina to North Augusta in the mid-2000s and works as a potter, like the space as a way to preserve history.

“When you can relate it to the person, you can put that touch on history, I think that’s important,” Kaltenback said. “I think one of the interesting things that has happened out there is that you don’t see even young people coming in using computers, cell phones, things like that. They are really focused on you starting to get into these stories because they haven’t heard them before.”

“If you can open somebody's mind about one thing, they will start to open their mind about other things. Once you start to see connections and how ideas move through time and how things are added to it and become better and maybe it becomes something else,” Denlinger said. “People start to understand about the continuity of life and the continuity of human life.”

Denlinger and Kaltenbach use their trades to connect the dots from colonial times to modern technology, while also explaining the functionality and importance of pieces featured in the park.

“More and more all the time because I think those things are being lost and because I am a history person, I think we really need to understand. You have to understand that stuff to know where technology came from,” Denlinger said. “...I think that we can learn from our mistakes in the past and our successes.”

The park hosts free events with reenactments several times a year, however it is open to the public Monday through Friday during business hours year round. Free self guided tours via QR code are available to park guests. 

In September 2022, ETV will host a special featuring various revolutionary battlegrounds and the living history park. To the park's knowledge, it is one of the only parks in the country that is staffed by volunteers. Thompson hopes people give the park a chance.

“It's an honor. We had about 45 people in colonial clothes the day they did that. It’s just calling people and they said sure I will come,” Thompson said. “That’s how much people love this and want to teach and we are hoping that will get more people in here. On any given day, we have people from all over.”

To learn more about getting involved, getting a membership and more visit their website.

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Samantha Winn covers the city of North Augusta, with a focus on government and community oriented business. Follow her on Twitter: @samanthamwinn and on Facebook and Instagram: @swinnnews