Excitement grows for Longview’s sesquicentennial celebration

Party planners are detailing their game plan for Longview's 150th birthday celebration in 2020.

During an hour-long brainstorming session Thursday at City Hall, about a dozen municipal and civic leaders tossed around ideas such as replicating a tiny jail or the city's former mule-drawn streetcar as part of the festivities.

Community Services Coordinator Laura Hill agreed to lead scheduling for the sesquicentennial and ask area schools, churches and businesses how they want to contribute to the celebration. For example, she's asked Longview ISD to consider building some sort of one-room school house indicative of public education when Longview was founded in 1870.

"This is not closed at all," Hill said of the movement. "We want our community to celebrate our heritage."

The city has nonprofit and tax-exempt benefits it didn't have in 1970 when municipal leaders formed a corporation and sold stock certificates to raise funds for the centennial celebration, she said. Nevertheless, volunteers and others are stepping up to donate resources as well as local preservation efforts.

Local historian and News-Journal columnist Van Craddock announced Thursday that profits from a book he and wife Bettye Craddock are writing, to be titled "Tales of Old Longview," will be 100 percent donated to the city's Historic Preservation Commission.

Gregg County Historical Museum Executive Director Lindsay Loy agreed the museum should accept donated photos and memorabilia from Longview's past. The museum already has received requests as far away as Oklahoma about where to give discarded items such as a commemorative Longview centennial dress from 1970, Loy said, and she said she expects donations to increase as word of the sesquicentennial spreads.

"I talked to our new education coordinator, and she said she would absolutely love to create several sesquicentennial traveling trunks. and she'll prepare the costumes, too, if the Junior League (of Longview) would help, and we'd take them to all of our schools that ask for free," Loy said. "She was very excited to be a part of that project."

Frank Jackson with the Gregg County Historic Preservation Board suggested the city's ministerial board be involved in gathering research about the area's history of faith and for someone to compile the city's more recent history since the 1970 centennial.

Also, he expressed gratitude that Hill would initiate conversations with local institutions about how they might become involved.

"I think it's going to be more effective if someone that represents the whole city breaks the news to them and lets them begin their own ideas of brainstorming and developing rather than any individual trying to go to it," Jackson said.

Added Loy, "It keeps the message consistent."

Hill said she wants to prepare the master calendar for the celebration scheduled between January and May of 2020.

District 1 Councilman Ed Moore added that Eastman Chemical Co. and Kodak also will have a celebration of its company in 2020, suggesting that Eastman might be eager to participate in Longview's sesquicentennial, and longtime Amtrak employee Griff Hubbard said he is communicating with his company about the idea of bringing a commemorative train to Longview as part of festivities.

Also attending Thursday's meeting were Janet Davis with the Gregg County Historic Preservation Board, Gordon Northcutt with Greenwood Cemetery, Kelly Green with the museum and city staffers Dietrich Johnson, Jennifer Eldridge and Melida Heien.

The group agreed to meet every four months in 2018, with their next meeting sometime in April. Hill said she would announce the time and place of the meeting and encouraged the public to attend. For information, call (903) 237-1270.

"I'm crazy in love with this project," Hill said.