July 2006
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BURRITT ON THE MOUNTAIN: A Place for All Ages

by Susie Sims

 
  Burritt on the Mountain worker Margaret Mazikowski demonstrates the art of making butter to Hampton Cove Elementary School students.
Mention Burritt on the Mountain to folks in north Alabama and you get the same response: I haven’t been there since I was a kid.

You might want to consider revisiting this unique example of the way things used to be.

Burritt on the Mountain is located high atop the city of Huntsville on Round Top Mountain. The 167-acre site has several areas of interest, including a mansion built in 1938 by Dr. William Henry Burritt, a historic park, nature trails, and a barnyard full of farm animals.

Known as a living museum, Burritt on the Mountain is open year round for guided and self-guided tours.
 
Historic Park

Of particular interest to anyone involved with agriculture is the historic park section of the museum which highlights life in the South from 1850 to about 1900. It features houses and structures common during that time frame.

The Chandler House has a dogtrot between the two main living rooms. School children can learn how butter was made in 1850 while visiting this house.

Margaret Mazikowski provides a demonstration on butter making and explains how it was preserved in the Bernstein Spring House.

"Spring houses were always built near natural springs," Mazikowski explained to a Ms. King’s third-grade class from Hampton Cove Elementary School. "They used a wooden pipe to carry cool spring water into a limestone trough, which they called a dairy keeper. The cool running water kept the temperature about 50 degrees inside the house and kept their dairy products fresh."
 
 
Hampton Cove Elementary School student Brianna Mitchell churns butter in the Chandler House at Burritt on the Mountain.
 
 
A Different Line of Work

Mazikowski has been at the museum since the farm animals were brought in about four years ago.

"I was on the committee to acquire the animals," said Mazikowski. "Once the museum had the animals, they needed someone to help take care of them, so I stayed."

Mazikowski got involved with the committee through her former career as a hairdresser. One of her clients had a cousin who was working with the museum to obtain the animals. Mazikowski had owned a wide variety of animals for more than 20 years so she decided to get involved. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The goal of the program is to teach visitors about agriculture, in particular where their food comes from.

"I want the public to know where life comes from, where food comes from, what farmers do," said Mazikowski. "I want kids to know that milk doesn’t come from the grocery store and that eggs aren’t a dairy product simply because they’re found in the dairy case." In order to help make that point, the museum has begun selling fresh eggs from its barnyard.

Mazikowski noted the museum is working on its Grade A dairy rating so it can begin to sell cheeses and milk.

Concerning the demonstrations, Mazikowski said that she loves her job. "It’s like working at home, only I wear funny clothes," she said. "All the work is done the way it was done more than 100 years ago." She is what is called a barnyard interpreter. She guides visitors through the daily lives of Southerners during the 1800s.
 
Adopt an Animal

While having live animals in the barnyard adds to the authenticity of the museum, caring for the critters takes quite a bit of effort.

Mazikowski likes to shop at Marshall Farmers Co-op in Arab for her own animals’ needs.

To help provide for the care of the animals, the museum has established an Adopt an Animal program. Groups or individuals can "adopt" one of the barnyard friends. You can choose from snakes, chickens, goats, rabbits, and other animals.

 
  Burritt Director of Education Jeff Hughes teaches students about farm life around 1900. He is pictured with Miss Lily, the park’s Jersey cow.
Also available for adoption is Miss Lily, the museum’s 10-year-old Jersey cow that was named after Lily Flag, the record-setting cow from the Chicago World’s Fair.
 
Summer Concert Series

The museum is hosting the 13th season of City Lights & Stars, a series of outdoor concerts held at Burritt on the Mountain.

Musical guests include Classical Blues Cabaret with Microwave Dave and Phil Weaver, the Ted Howe Trio and Mambo Gris-Gris. Ticket information is available by calling (256) 536-2882.

A wide variety of meal options are also available from the casual picnic to a formal dinner at the Burritt Mansion.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.