- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - When Marcia Young thought about her future, she envisioned herself as a college history professor.

After growing up in Miami, attending college in Boston and graduate school in New York, living in Paris and San Francisco and then returning to Boston, she also thought that job would be in a big city.

But when Young’s husband, Mike, also a history professor, was offered a position at Illinois Wesleyan University in 1970, Young had to re-think her life plan.

“My husband and I are in the same general field,” she said, so teaching at IWU was not an option.

Illinois State University didn’t have any open positions, but was looking for a curator of history for the ISU Museum. Young took the job and soon was named acting director, then director.

In 1990, she accepted a position as site manager for the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, a position she has held until her retirement on Wednesday.

“I feel fulfilled,” she said. “I wanted to do something meaningful; do something I felt made a difference to people.”

While Young feared she might not meet as many students as she would have as a college professor, it’s actually been the opposite. The Bloomington mansion routinely hosts classroom tours and there also are people of all ages taking advantage of the many special events, or the public tours offered five days a week.

“Over the years she’s developed programming and public access to an outstanding level,” said Alyson Grady, superintendent of Illinois’ historic sites. “She’s done a wonderful job of developing programming to keep young people involved.”

Sometimes that has meant thinking outside the box. For instance, Young learned it was common during the mansion’s era to give a gift of candy cockroaches.

“I started calling candy manufacturers,” she said. Most hung up on her when she asked: ‘Have you heard of candy cockroaches?’ But then she called Pease’s Candy in Springfield. Not only had the shop heard of them, but it had the mold from the 19th century, she said.

The candy company, which once was in the Twin Cities, now makes the candy cockroaches exclusively for the David Davis Mansion.

“She has great attention to detail,” noted Kathe Conley, president of the David Davis Mansion Foundation. “She wants to be sure everything is historically accurate; to portray things as accurately as possible. I have tremendous respect for her.”

The mansion has gone through major changes during Young’s tenure. When she started, it was in the final phase of a $2.5 million state-funded restoration. A few years later, the museum took on restoration of the 135-year-old garden originally planted by Judge David Davis’ wife, Sarah.

That is one of Young’s fondest memories.

While one consultant recommended clearing the garden and starting anew, Young made the decision to do more research. Master Gardeners were approached and the restoration started.

“They found eight plants from 1872 still in the garden,” Young said.

Then in 2008, things started changing. Illinois was at a budget impasse; there was a serious threat the mansion may have to close its doors.

Young said, luckily, the David Davis Foundation, which she’d help start in 1986, was strong.

“We went everywhere to find support,” she said. “We sent a message to the state that the Davis Mansion was not a good target.”

The mansion survived and still is going strong. Attendance has increased over the last couple of years, said Conley.

“The first major thing is that it really does take a village,” Young said. “Over the years we’ve had so many incredible people. My job is to facilitate; make it easy for others to do their skills…”

Grady said that philosophy has attracted interns and volunteers to the mansion that has helped make it an important part of the community and state.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, http://bit.ly/1hXWzQ1

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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