Effort to preserve Lilly Weston house on display at Westlake's Fall Festival

A children's librarian from Porter Library reads "The Little House" by Virginia Lee Burton to children.

Bustling with energy, the Fall Festival at Westlake’s Recreational Center on Oct. 15 entertained children of all ages with its pony rides, pumpkin hunt, bouncy houses, hay rides and many other fun activities. This year, a new activity was added. The Westlake Historical Society mixed fun with local history in an event themed around the Lilly Weston House. But why is the Lilly Weston House so important? And why exactly is it being showcased at an event geared toward children and their families?

Built around 1844 in what was then Dover Township, the Lilly Weston House is a sandstone and brick home that is an important relic of Westlake’s agricultural past. It is located next to the entrance to the Westlake Recreational Center on Center Ridge Road, where it originated as the farmhouse for what was once a 100-acre farm. As the house passed through at least 17 owners, the acreage got smaller and smaller, until it was eventually donated to the community for use as a museum on its one-acre lot.

Contrary to the sturdy looking exterior, the inside is gutted and has areas of unsafe flooring. It is in dire need of restoration as a museum and gathering hall and the Westlake Historical Society’s Lilly Weston Committee are in the beginning planning stages to see this through.

I have been a part of Girl Scouts for the past 10 years. It has become a major part of my life and we do much more than sell cookies. Scouting teaches young girls confidence, courage, responsibility, leadership and to be respectful to everyone. Girls combine fun with education by earning badges. The Bronze, Silver and Gold Award projects that scouts participate in are long lasting and geared toward making a positive influence on the local community. The highest award that a Girl Scout can earn is the Gold Award, an accomplishment only a few scouts earn. Comparable to the Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout Award, the Gold Award is also about making a long-lasting impact on the community.

While searching for an idea for my Gold Award, I was introduced to the Lilly Weston House by Lysa Stanton, the president of the Westlake Historical Society, where I have been a volunteer for the past three years. The story behind the house intrigued me immediately; the mystery behind its origin, how the massive sandstone blocks weighing hundreds or thousands of pounds were moved from a nearby quarry to the location of the house, and its long journey ahead for a new life as a museum and gathering hall.

The Fall Festival was a perfect opportunity to showcase these stories. I created informational boards explaining and educating older attendees about my Gold Award project and the Lilly Weston House history and restoration. Children’s librarians from the Porter Library read “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton to the children and a coloring page contest was held every hour with drawings of the Lilly Weston House and farm animals that historical records show were on the property.

A chalkboard was created for an “I wish this could be” activity in which people were able to write what they wanted the Lilly Weston House to be used for in the future. There were opportunities for photographs, at an actual century-old wooden farm wagon and a cut-out board was created for the event based on the “American Gothic” painting that can also be used at future events for the Lilly Weston House. The cut-out board, coloring pages and informational boards were all designed by me with help from friends and board members from the Lilly Weston Committee. Most importantly, I am creating the website that will be used by the Westlake Historical Society to educate the public on this important historic home, its history and architecture, the efforts of the Lilly Weston Committee to restore it for its new use, and how the public is able to get involved and become part of its future.

I would like to give a special shout-out to my fellow Westlake High School volunteers – Bridgette, Meghan, Selene, Chloe, Jonn, Jared, Blake and RJ – for helping at the Fall Festival, the Lilly Weston Committee members, especially Will Krause, Salma Assad and Jan Schmitt, and Lysa Stanton and the Westlake Historical Society for their support of my project. The website will go live sometime after Jan. 1, so be sure to check out the Westlake Historical Society website next year for a link to it.

Carolyn Bedell

Junior at Westlake High School, currently working on Gold Award project through Girl Scouts. President and founder of Animation Club and Co-Historian at Westlake High School. Goal is to earn an Animation BFA at the Savannah College of Art and Design, but I also love writing poetry and short stories on the side.

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Volume 8, Issue 21, Posted 10:03 AM, 11.01.2016