Bringing back the past

July 9, 2012

Nestled on a hill adjacent to the Mayborn Museum Complex, the newly renovated Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village reopened to the public on May 12 after having undergone a two-year revitalization. 

"We've kept the essence and original intent of this 25-year-old educational component of our museum complex and made it more accessible and user-friendly to visitors in our modern-day climate of learning," said Dr. Ellie Caston, the museum's director.

The village was donated to Baylor University in 1985 by Gov. Bill Daniel, JD '38, his wife Vara Martin Daniel and their four children. Patterned after life in a Texas riverfront town at the turn of the century, it allows students, children and families to step into the past.

Guests from the Central Texas community and Baylor University gathered in the village pavilion to commemorate the reopening and view the revitalized grounds. Susan Daniel, BBA '70, Ann Daniel Rogers, BS '68, and Dani Daniel Brister, BSED '75, along with family members and children from Rapoport Academy, joined Baylor University President Ken Starr in the ceremonial ribbon cutting.

"Today we're here to honor a legacy, something very near and dear to the hearts of both Miss Vara and Gov. Bill -- the Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village," Starr said. "This legacy is one that is going to benefit Baylor University, but much more than that, it's going to benefit the whole community as represented by the Rapoport Academy students here. We're so thankful that just as Gov. Bill and Miss Vara opened their arms and their hearts to welcome families and children at Plantation Ranch, the original home of these structures, we get to welcome you here today. We're very grateful to the sisters and the members of the Daniel family who are with us and who made such valuable contributions in our efforts to re-envision this historic village as we go back in time."

The renovation included careful attention to details like the pot-bellied stove in the schoolhouse and canned goods with period-appropriate labels on the commissary shelves. A new entrance leads from the museum to the fully renovated outdoor exhibits, integrating the village into the overall museum experience.

Village Manager Trey Crumpton, BS '05, MS '11, believes these improvements honor the past and set the stage for the village's role moving into the future: "This is a huge step forward, allowing us to more fully interpret the story of how people lived in the 1890s."

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