One Last Tour through the Mansion

The Barker Mansion is only in the state that it’s in now because of the love and care of its many employees and volunteers. It’s these workers that allow the mansion to keep it’s authentic look. Without them, the Barker Mansion wouldn’t be what it is today. One employee that has helped keep the mansion in top shape is Mary Kintzele. Today marks the final day Kintzele will be working at the mansion. To celebrate and remember her dedicated time here, she is giving one final tour (which will include her family), and a party is being thrown for her. The mayor of Michigan City also made today, Feb. 27th, Mary Kintzele Day.

Mary with family.

Kintzele started working for the Barker Mansion in 1991. She has since worked for the mansion for the last 24 years. To help put that in perspective, I’m 22 years old which means Kintzele has been working for the mansion longer than I’ve been alive. 24 years is a long time to stay in one place. You might ask why would she want to stay for so long? The reason is simple. She loves the Barker Mansion.

Mary and Barker Relative
Mary with a member of the Barker family.

I had the pleasure of joining a tour led by Kintzele. While on the tour, it became apparent how important she finds the mansion. She’s always excited to share and talk about the mansion to those on the tour. She even takes the time to talk about specific items within each room, letting tourists know what items are originals and so on. You might think she would become bored of talking about the same things for 24 years. However, when I joined her tour, she didn’t look bored at all. Kintzele puts her heart and soul into her tours. Why? Because she wants to make people appreciate the Barker Mansion as much as she does.

Mary enjoying her party with her family.

Continuing with Kintzele’s tours, the tour I had the opportunity to join saw Kintzele tell stories of the architecture and artifacts of the mansion. She didn’t simply read off bullet points or run down a list. Kintzele made the mansion feel alive by telling stories to make the tours more intriguing for visitors. She made it a journey through time rather than simply a slideshow.

Mary helping visitors make ice cream.

Kintzele has truly been a vital part of the mansion these past 24 years. She’s given so much of her time to the mansion. She’s helped with a plethora of events including recently the Ice Cream Social and Vintage V-Day events. More outstanding, Kintzele has been a great influence on the number of children that have come through the mansion. She always speaks to the children on tours, hoping give them a better learning experience while also allowing them to have fun. Plus, many children, and sometimes adults, think Kintzele lives at the mansion.

Mary giving a tour.

Kintzele has been an amazing part of the workforce here at the Barker Mansion. For 24 years, she’s been a constant for the mansion, a symbol. She’s seen many people come and go here, but now we must watch her go. She says she will miss the mansion as a whole since it has become her second home these last 24 years. With that said, Kintzele is looking forward to continuing her life after retirement, after the mansion. Kintzele, and her love for the mansion, will be greatly missed here at the Barker Mansion. Though she may be moving on, her time here will never be forgotten.

Mary with her documentation for Mary Kintzele Day by order of the mayor of Michigan City.

Miguel Valencia


Giving What We don’t Need

In the past week, the mansion has gotten rid of items from its collection. The items were acquired over a series of years but were not Barker related. Through the process of weeding through the mansion’s non- Barker related collections, we have been able to provide mittens and hats to gentleman from Keys to Hope during the extreme cold spells Michigan City experienced. Plans to donate toys, dolls, and stuffed animals to children’s programs are in the works. At the Thrift Sale at our Vintage V-Day, party items were release from our care to local theater groups needing in-period costumes and attire, as well as to families wanting to reunite with nostalgia.  Last Saturday, in particular, members of the community came to us in search of the mannequins for their WWII exhibits. We were fortunate enough to assist with their inquiry. In an attempt to create more space to better house the Barker collection, we have fulfilled a need in the community which seems to be a common theme- What is the need of the community and how do we fulfill it?

A few of the mannequins that have left.

Most of the items that have left the mansion in the past month were originally found in the archive and storage rooms that were once servants quarters located in the 1857-part of the house. Through the process of eliminating the modern clothes and toys, mansion employees are faced with a new question for the Barker Mansion archives: How do we preserve a historical collection and maintain it’s integrity while using modern items to prevent damage to artifacts? It would be wonderful to say “everything in the home is 100%”. However, from what I gather, that is simply not possible.

Items form the silent auction.

While we have a very high number of authentic pieces, a modern museum needs to have items that are not original for public use. Items in office spaces are not original. Chairs set out for guests to rest upon in the foyer cannot be original. In order for the mansion to have the public within it’s walls, we must have at least a few items that can take daily wear and tear rather than guests sitting in Mr. Barker’s chair at the dining room table for their bridal reception. While the idea can be kind of cool to use the same silver set that the family used, it is not realistically a great solution when you think about preservation. The Barker collection is apart of a legacy. We are able to see 200 years into the past through the preservation of these items and hopefully in another 100 years, people will be able to see the same things that visitors see today. We have just embarked on the journey towards finding better methods.

Miguel Valencia

Vintage Valentine, New Ideas

Love is in the air. Flowers are being plucked and sent to those admired. Cards with words of endearment are being sent. It can only be Valentine’s Day (soon). We at the Barker Mansion are getting involved in the festivities with a special event, our Vintage V-Day event. Today (Saturday) the mansion is opened to all to experience some great music, a silent auction, a thrift sale, and more. A lot of vintage clothing and other items are up for grabs in the silent auction and thrift sale. Some of the vintage clothing up for grabs include purses, hats, coats, shoes, and a lot more. None of these items belonged to the Barker family, and we felt this was a better time than any to release them from our collection.

Enjoying the first 21+ event.

Usually our events are catered to the whole family, meant to bring adults and children together. However, in another first for the Barker Mansion, our Vintage V-Day event is a 21 and over event. Obviously, this means families (that have underage children) aren’t the focus. If there is ever a time to have such an event, Valentine’s Day makes the most logical choice. Couples are able to visit the mansion and share adult beverages (champagne and beer), have some hors d’oeuvers, and relax to sounds of jazz music. These are all very much “adult” things to do.

The interesting part of having this event is that we are now able to capture the attention of a new group of people. As stated before, many of our past events have been about bringing in families. These events are amazing and always a blast to have, but it’s important, especially for a place like Barker Mansion, to hold events that cater to different types of people. Instead of saying “bring the whole family”, this time we’re saying “find a sitter, and come enjoy a pleasant time with your significant other”.

John and Katherine Barker.

When talking about the Barker Mansion, it’s easy to forget that the mansion is also a civic center. The definition of civic center is to provide an environment for the community/outlet for the community for public use. It’s an inter-generational gathering place. This is the direction the mansion is going in. This particular event is catering to a specific age group, the 21 and over age group. The 21 and over group has been previously neglected outside of the annual Pink Tea event and house tours.

I worked the photo booth for this event, and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of the couples that came to the event. For many of the couples, this was the first time they stepped into the mansion. They felt this was an event that more spoke to them and their interests. For returning couples, they thought this event was a great first step in broadening our reach to more people. Both types enjoyed their time and look forward to visiting the mansion again for similar events.

We at the mansion hope to continue hosting more events of this nature. By planning more events that speak to more generations across the board, we’re investing in the future of the mansion. We’re also investing in the people of Michigan City.

Miguel Valencia


A Night at the Mansion

This past Friday, the Barker Mansion held the first ever Night at the Mansion event. Basically, the mansion allowed two troops of girl scouts to spend the night in the mansion. They received a tour of the mansion (including a “behind the scenes” tour), had dinner in the Barker dining room, and watched a movie and played games in the drawing room. The girls spent the night and enjoyed a nice breakfast in the morning. Before I left for the night, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the troop leaders and the girls.

Jessica getting everyone ready for the night.

I first talked to Amy and Kelly from Troop 00012 about their experience having the scouts visit and spend the night. They thought it would be an interesting, fascinating idea for the group. Amy mentioned how she used to visit the mansion a lot when she was a kid, and Kelly told me that she visits all the time for different events and weddings. They both had an amazing time. They found it to be a very rich learning experience for the girls and themselves. Amy really liked that she was able to share the mansion with her own daughter, Juliana. Kelly made a great point that every time you visit, you notice something new. They also enjoyed the large group aspect for the fact that the girls asked a variety of questions during the tour.

The girl scouts of Troop 00012.

I also spoke with the troop leader for Troop 30204, Joan. Whereas Troop 00012 consists of girls around the age of nine, Joan’s group consists of teenagers (around 15 and 16). She mentioned to me that her and her girls are always looking for fun and exciting things to do. All of them are very interested with history, and they thought coming to the Barker Mansion satisfied that interest greatly. Joan mentioned a cool part of the mansion were the carvings in the wood and the architecture overall. Her and her daughter, Anastasia, love architecture, and they really enjoyed the mansion’s. Joan felt that visiting the mansion gave all the girls a real appreciation for history. She also said the visit and tour brought history to life through the mansion. Being able to walk in and around the many rooms and halls of the mansion allowed the girls to see history as more than just names and dates.

The girl scouts of 30204.

As great as talking to the troop leaders was, I also made an effort to talk to the girls. I always find it important to get the different perspectives. I had the pleasure to sit down and speak with Amelia, Krystani, Juliana, and Megan as they played checkers. Off the bat, all four girls exclaimed how awesome and cool they thought the mansion was. After being able to walk through the mansion, Amelia said it felt like a dream. She, and many other girls, wished to own and live in the mansion. Her favorite part was the library since she loves books. Krystani had a harder time picking her favorite part because she loved all of it too much. She was very ecstatic about the entire thing, wanting to go on the tour the moment she walked through the mansion’s door. Krystani made a great point about not being able to touch anything. This made everyone see with their eyes and really take good looks, maybe even double takes, of everything they saw.

Asking and answering questions about the mansion.

Mentioned before, we had a few teenagers a part of the scout’s night over. I had the opportunity to speak with two of them, Anastasia and Gwen. Both thought the mansion was really cool, and they thoroughly enjoyed touring. Anastasia talked about she recently visited Europe, a visit she loved. She compared visiting the mansion to Europe based on the architecture. Her favorite aspect of the mansion was the architecture, finding it really cool and fascinating to examine. Gwen’s favorite part was Catherine’s room. They thought spending the night was a great idea since they were able to walk through the mansion as a smaller group. It was like being a part of something, something in history.

Learning about the mansion on the tour.

This was the first time the Barker Mansion ever allowed people to spend the night. The girls of Troops 00012 and 30204 loved the fact they were first, the trendsetters. We loved having them as much as they loved being here. The best part for us is that we were able to share the mansion and it’s rich history with a great group of young people, children and teens. We would love to have them, and any other similar groups, back again.

Everyone together for a fun time.

Miguel Valencia