The Carlyle House has been a flurry of activity the past few weeks, planning an upcoming exhibit and arranging for three viewings. The first two will be on public television. The third will be of John Carlyle.
"Paper and Stone," the documentary about John Carlyle by the Emmy-winning director Robert Cole, will air on public television twice this month: WETA will show the film at 10 p.m. on Aug. 25 and again at 1 p.m. on Aug. 28.
At its premier last March, a capacity crowd packed the Old Town Theater, and reenactors shouted "Huzzah!" from the first row. Since then, visitors to the Carlyle House have enjoyed viewing an abbreviated version of the documentary before touring the recently renovated Carlyle House.
The program leads viewers through a detective story as the mystery of John Carlyle slowly unravels. Historians give accounts of how the story of a proud Scottish merchant emerged when a trunk of old letters was discovered in England, slowly bringing Carlyle to life for researchers. The film features Scottish musicians Pete Clark and The Niel Gow Ensemble.
TWO TELEVISION VIEWINGS will bring regional attention to the house just in time for the third viewing, which will involve a wooden coffin built by expert coffin-maker Walt Henderson.
Back in 1999, Henderson built a coffin for a reenactment of George Washington's death. His latest creation will be on display at the Carlyle House as part of an exhibit called "Death Comes to the Carlyle House: An 18th Century Home in Mourning."
Visitors will pay their respects in the parlor, view the coffin in the dining room, visit the deathbed scene in the bedroom and see a display of mourning jewelry from the late 18th century in the upper passage. They will also learn about a deceased cat that was once entombed in the basement — the ritual object was probably placed in a hunting pose to ward off evil spirits in adherence with an old European practice of placing ritual objects about the house.
"Death was ever-present in the Carlyle House," said curator Jim Bartlinski, adding that nine Carlyle children died between the 1750s and the 1770s. "I think it's something different from what you would usually see in a museum house."
The reenactment of Carlyle's 1781 death will take place on Oct. 29 from 6 to 10 p.m. It will include portrayals of Sarah Carlyle Herbert, John Carlyle's only surviving daughter, and George William Carlyle, who will die in a Revolutionary War battle the next year after his father's passing.