A new chapter

Long Branch Plantation introduces monthly book club

By Ryan Cornell

MILLWOOD — Oprah’s got nothing on this book club.

Starting next month, the historic Long Branch Plantation will host its first ever book discussion group.

The Millwood estate, which began as a wheat plantation in the 1790s, contains a mansion believed to date from 1811.

The house reopened to the public last October after being closed since February 2013 for a redesign.

Part of that redesign included making the museum more accessible and interactive to visitors, said Cassie Ward, interim executive director and director of public programs at Long Branch.

“The changing model for historic house museums all across the country is to drop the velvet ropes, to let people have more of an interactive experience in the home,” she said. “While the previous furniture was magnificent, it was so high-end and so expensive that you couldn’t risk having people touch it or anything, but everything you see in the house now, you can sit at the tables, you can sit on the couches.”

The book club will be held in the house’s dining room. Guests are encouraged to bring snacks and food.

The Long Branch Book Club meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.

The first meeting on Nov. 4 will discuss “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. A list of the selected titles through next December is available on the Long Branch website, and includes historical fiction, popular fiction, nonfiction and classics.

No registration is needed to join the book club, which is free to attend. New members are always welcome.

Long Branch has also started a book swap in recognition of National Book Month. A set of tables inside the front entrance of the house is topped with a collection of books spanning all genres and subjects.

Visitors can drop off their unwanted books from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. any day this month, and purchase one of the books with a small donation. In addition to books, the swap accepts movies and video games.

Long Branch will donate any remaining books at the end of October to local organizations.

“We’ve had people stop by the house who haven’t been here in several years,” Ward said, “so we think that’s a good sign that we’re starting to offer valuable and worthy programs in the community.”

She said the idea of the two new programs is not only to promote reading and dialogue, but also to encourage people to think of Long Branch in a new way. She said they hope to add a toddler storytime program next year.

“We feel that if you come to Long Branch for an event or program, we really want you to utilize the house,” she said. “And in my weird hippie way, the house feels better when people are using it.”

Long Branch Plantation is located at 830 Long Branch Lane in Millwood. The historic home and grounds are open to self-guided tours during the week and guided tours on weekends.

For more information, visit http://www.goo.gl/7hLIze or call 540-837-1856.