In 2014, a group of Benicia State Parks Association volunteers instituted a new program, the “Capitol Neighbors Speaker Series.” The living history event includes a presentation at the State Capitol that include readings, lectures and volunteer actors in period costume to highlight a special time or person from Benicia’s past. An accompanying exhibit in the recently added exhibit case at the Capitol may coincide with the events.
The group kicked off the series in fall 2013 with Mrs. Mizner and her Mother: Eyewitness Accounts of a Deadly Shipwreck and the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, followed in spring 2014 with Making a Living on First Street: F.J. Stumm and Ansley K. Salz, highlighting two historic Benicia businesses that thrived on First Street.
The fall 2014 offering, John Brown’s Body, by Stephen Vincent Benet, was a big hit as each of the presentations gains momentum. The event coincided with the opening of a new exhibit, The Literary Life in an Army Arsenal: The Benet Years in Benicia, 1905-1911, included a presentation of portions of Stephen Vincent Benet's best-selling poem set during America's Civil War, John Brown's Body. Benet wrote the book-length poem in Paris, France in the 1920’s, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1928. The poem has fans ranging from President John F. Kennedy to Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind.
“We are very enthusiastic about the series,” says Mike Caplin, publicity volunteer for the Benicia State Parks Association. “It’s raising funds for the association. It spurs interest and reconnects residents and visitors with Benicia History, and fosters a greater appreciation of the Benicia Capitol State Historical Park.”
The Benicia State Parks Association will present the next event this spring, the subject matter of which will be World War II, in conjunction with a the opening of an exhibit at the Benicia Historical Museum. There’s a small admission fee; all proceeds benefit the BCSHP.
For more information about upcoming Speaker Series events, contact BSPA at protectbeniciastateparks.org or call 707.745.3670. For information about exhibits at the Benicia Historical Museum, visit beniciahistoricalmuseum.org or call 707.745-5435.