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6 Local History Lessons for Families

6 kid-approved field trips, from The Denton Firefighter's Museum to Campus Theatre.

Power up the time machine for an adventure through some of North Texas’ oldest and grandest sites, with kid-friendly “assignments” (i.e., cool experiences) to bring the past to life. These mini history lessons are the perfect way to get your family into the back-toschool spirit while making the most of the dog days of summer.

Texas First Ladies Historic Costume Collection

Lesson: A visit to the Texas Woman’s University campus offers a healthy serving of girl power. Inspire your own future stateswoman with TWU’s tribute to the First Ladies of the Lone Star State— even before The Republic of Texas became a state in 1845.

Assignment: Make your way through the rotating collection, which currently displays 21 gowns worn by governors’ wives over the past 200 years—from a replica of a dress belonging to Margaret Lea Houston to the scarlet gown worn by Cecilia Abbott during her husband’s 2015 inauguration. Admission is free.
304 Administration Drive, Denton, 940/898-3644; twu.edu/gown-collection

Denton Firefighters’ Museum

Lesson: Denton’s fire department was founded in 1874 by volunteer firefighters. At the museum located inside the Denton Fire Department Headquarters, memorabilia stretching back to the 19th century, like fire extinguishers and fire grenades, give a glimpse into the evolution of public safety. The museum also pays tribute to the fallen fighters of 9/11—a monument in front of the building commemorates the members of FDNY Engine 343.

Assignment: You won’t see any “Do not touch” signs here—kids are actually encouraged to try on the helmets and bunker gear on display. Explore on your own, or call ahead to book guided and group tours. Admission into the museum is free. Your crew can come and go as you please, so don’t be—ahem—alarmed if you don’t see anyone on hand when you walk in.
332 E. Hickory St., 940/349-8840; discoverdenton.com/firefighters-museum

Denton County Historical Park

Lesson: This green space is home to the Bayless- Selby House Museum and Quakertown House, which tell two different stories of turn-ofthe- century life in Denton. While the Queen Anne–style Bayless-Selby home reflects the life of a well-to-do family in the late 1800s, the 1904 Quakertown House is a relic of one of the many annexed or forgotten communities in North Texas. Quakertown was once home to a thriving black community after Reconstruction until the early 20th century, when residents were forced to leave to make way for Civic Center Park (now known as Quakertown Park).

Assignment: Inside the Bayless-Selby House, the kiddos can see authentic Victorian furnishings and memorabilia, including an old-timey doctor’s office and a hair wreath (popular during this time period to commemorate lost loved ones). The Quakertown House has the medical supplies of the first African-American doctor in Denton, Dr. Edwin D. Moten, on display. The homes are open Tuesday–Saturday from 10am–2pm in the summer and Wednesday–Saturday 10am– 2pm in the winter. Both homes are free to tour; guided tours offered on request.
317 W. Mulberry St., Denton; dentoncounty.com

Courthouse-On-The-Square Museum

Lesson: Standing tall since 1896, the third courthouse built in Denton is perhaps the truest representation of the city’s grand roots—after all, it was plotted for the express purpose of being the new county seat. (And the imposing Romanesque Revival building is a far sight better than the first place county officials held court: under a post oak tree.) Though many county functions have moved to the new courts building east of the Square, the old courthouse houses a few offices and exhibits.

Assignment: The museum’s main gallery is closed until April 2019, but visitors can still see the historic courtroom and view some rather nutty art, courtesy of B.W. Crawford’s pecan art on display, where kiddos can view their favorite action heroes—like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman—all constructed from pecan nuts. Admission is free.
110 West Hickory St., Denton, 940/349-2850; dentoncounty.com/chos

Coppell Heritage Park

Lesson: At Heritage Park, an antique windmill stands near a replica of a 1932 Minyard Food Store (stocked with canned goods, meats and cheese—all fake, but placed in the store as if it were shoppable today), plus three houses from different periods in Coppell’s history. The Kirkland House is the oldest in Coppell, dating back to 1904, while the Infeldt House, built in 1924, was the spot where a German woman would sell sandwiches to workers on what is now Denton Tap Road. At the time the Wilson house was built in 1946, there was controversy between Coppell citizens who wanted the town to stay like it was and who wanted the town to expand. The latter won— in the 1960s, a water system, sewer system, zoning and independent school district all came to fruition.

Assignment: Tour the homes and pretend to shop at the grocery store (once famous for its penny candy) from 10am–noon the second Saturday of most months. Admission into Heritage Park is free.
708 S. Coppell Road, Coppell; coppellheritagepark.org

Campus Theatre

Lesson: This gem on the Denton Square offers a look at life back in the atomic age. Built in 1949 to entertain students at TWU and the University of North Texas, the appropriately named Campus Theatre also hosted the world premiere of the 1967 flick Bonnie and Clyde. Nearly 70 years later, it continues to put on shows, camps and specialty events. Note: Due to its old age, the theater is not ADA compliant.

Assignment: Contact Kyla at thedctteam@campustheatre.com to book a tour any weekday morning. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the theater, including the technical booth and dressing room area. Be sure to ask about J.P. Harrison, the theater’s original manager who is believed to haunt the place. Experience the venue in action by snagging seats to productions of The Wizard of Oz and The Graduate (premiering in mid-August and mid-September, respectively). Tour is free; ticket prices for live shows vary from $10–$22.
214 W. Hickory St., Denton, 940/382-1915; campustheatre.com