The beginnings were modest, as beginnings often are. In the early 1970s, Dr. Hart began purchasing land in Catawba County with the intent to create a nature reserve. His love of history, however, proved to be stronger than he knew, and he began purchasing, preserving, and restoring old cabins. What evolved is quite like a living museum, and for one day a year, the experience is immersive.
“The focus here is on showcasing the artistry of the 1800s,” says Dr. Hart, and each October, 350 artisans gather at Hart Square Village to demonstrate what day to day life was like in our region during Colonial times. 3,500 people interact with these artisans and gain a better understanding of local history. It’s truly something everyone should experience. Basket weaving, molasses making, cotton-pressing, tin-making, and so many other demonstrations are quite educational, and the buildings are each stocked full, looking as if the owner just stepped outside.
Dr. Hart’s passion was building this treasure, but his granddaughter Rebecca’s passion is sharing it. And it turns out, she’s quite good at it.
Rebeca Hart grew up here. She played in these houses the way most little girls play school on their back porches. For her, history was alive, palpable, and very important. She can tell you more than you’d ever want to know about the buildings here, and the history they hold. She seems as permanent here as the towering trees and the ponds her grandfather carved into the hills.
Rebecca is now the Executive Director at Hart Square Village, and under her leadership, the venture has thrived.
She is focused on sharing and preserving the artifacts here, and has better situated the group for success by reorganizing as a nonprofit organization.
She has also created an extensive educational program that hosted 2,000 students this year. 8,000 are slated to attend in 2018, marking truly spectacular growth.
The growth can be attributed to the popularity of the trips. The kids love them! The activities vary but recent classes have included “Corn Husk Angels and the History of Corn in the South” and “Banjo Making and the History of Appalachian Instruments.” Native American story telling and blacksmithing are both popular field trip activities. Hands on activities and lots of fresh air and exploration always make for an exciting trip, and Hart Square Village offers both.
Rebecca is always looking for new ways to connect history to the present, and she’s found a pretty exciting way.
Drawing on the immense popularity of craft beer, Hart Square Village has entered a partnership with the Old Hickory Brewery. They have crafted a historical beer. Cabin Fever Olde Time Ale is both delicious and historically accurate. It’s created only with ingredients that were readily available to our ancestors, using methods they had access to. All of the ingredients were grown on site, and even the grist mill was used. An old fashioned sorghum molasses is the finishing touch. An authentic beer may be the one thing the festival has been missing.
Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the Catawba County Museum of History in Newton, or with a card on the phone at (828) 465-0383. They may be purchased in person at the Catawba County Museum of History in Newton or over the phone, with a credit card, at (828) 465-0383.
After the festival, Hart Square Village is partnering with Highland Avenue Restaurant, which is housed in the renovated Hollar Mill, to bring an exciting dinner to the region. Highland Avenue is a farm to table restaurant, which is a very historical concept. Together, the two groups will be serving an authentic historical meal, served Pioneer style. This is the only event of it’s kind, and it dovetails so nicely with the intent of both groups. The historically accurate Fall dinner adds one more way the Hart Square Village is bringing history to all of our senses.