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Letter to the Editor: Gunston Hall Belongs to the People

Author believes Gunston Hall administration is misinformed

In a recent article about Gunston Hall, a reader suggested, quoting Mark Twain, that this dog does not hunt any more. 

Those of us, who have first hand, day-to-day, knowledge of Gunston Hall over many years, know that things are not right at Gunston Hall. Since the Commonwealth contributes a substantial portion of the operating money to Gunston Hall, any tax paying citizen should try to find out what we are getting in return.  

As has been clearly demonstrated in the press recently, we are getting an arrogant, uninformed First Regent, who steps to the direction of the Director. As has been mentioned, he has commendable curatorial skills; however from a managerial point of view of this plantation, he has indeed not benefited Gunston Hall. The skills of a curator cannot automatically be transferred to management. A good manager would have listened to others who have expertise in other fields. Instead, anyone who had any ideas not in line with those of the Director was targeted for dismissal or ridicule.

As for the First Regent, she has made several statements to the press, which clearly demonstrate her lack of knowledge. She recently made the comment that the former Education Coordinator was “just a volunteer”, who had no educational background. The facts are that this same person has a master’s degree in Museum Education and was a long-time Virginia State employee.  The First Regent also previously stated that the former farm manager left because he no longer wanted to do farming. There is written evidence to the contrary.  

One cannot blame the First Regent for her lack of knowledge about Gunston Hall, after all, during a twice-yearly visit she only gets to see the surface and hear what others tell her.

Contrary to the Board of Advisors, which was recently summarily dismissed by the First Regent, the Board of Visitors of Gunston Hall does have a statutory obligation to report to the Governor about the performance of the Regents. They should be comprised of people who have the welfare of Gunston Hall at heart and whose appointments to that position should not be based on rewards for monetary contributions to the Colonial Dames of America. Has anyone seen the reports that the Board of Visitors is required to supply to the Governor every year regarding the performance of the Regents? If you do, please tell me. 

After all, the underlying issue is the fact that Gunston Hall belongs to the People of Virginia and not to the Regents and we should have some say of what is done with our tax money.

Sally Spangler May 17, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Gunston Hall used to be in my mind, anyway, an old house of unknown background. Over the many years I picked up the knowledge that it was "run" by the Colonial Dames. The gardens were made beautiful for Virginia Garden Week and house was open for tours. It was also open at Christmas time. The tour was of the type offered at Mount Vernon. Dull as dish water. The next piece of knowledge was that the Boxwood Allee was to be fixed to look as it had when George Mason had been in residence. Oh yes. Still nothing of interest in a pre-revoltionary home. The last time I was at Gunston Hall was during the changes to prettify the house as a "rich home" owned by a rich man. That angered me. I felt that the house was being done unto as Mount Vernon had - to make it like Williamsburg. In my research into Virginia's history. I found this - Mr. Mason had been the writer of the Virginia Resolves. A sort of pre-declaration of what Virginia was about. His Resolves later would become the idea of the first ten amendments to our Constitution. I had to do alot of reading to find this tidbit of American history. Too bad they were not teaching this in American history in the late 1940s in DC high schools.

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