Historic Achievement

by Ron Fitzwater

Those who have driven down Main Street in Jefferson recently may have noticed increased activity going on at the historic 1904 courthouse. That activity will very soon bring to life, the Museum of Ashe County History.

For several weeks now the museum staff, and a modest number of volunteers, have been undertaking the task of moving the museum's treasures from their temporary location across the street to their permanent home in the meticulously restored building, and putting them in to place.

On Monday, Jan. 4, members of the museum's board of directors hosted a sneak-peek of the museum for the Ashe County Board of Commissioners. On hand for the tour were board members and other staff members including the museum's president, Gwen Ashley and Vice-President of Museum Operations, Don Long, who explained that while much work had been done, there is much more to do.

"Things are going good, we have most of the heavy moving done as far as the big pieces of furniture and exhibit items along with a lot of the little stuff that was on display in the temporary location," said Long.

"We do have several things in storage that will need to be brought in but we are currently arranging what we have into a presentable condition for people to walk through."

Long said that most of the work of moving the items into the courthouse was done by 15 volunteers from the community, including students from Ashe County High School on Saturday, Dec. 12, and that because of their efforts things are on schedule.

"What we are doing now is cleaning house and making adjustments here and there."

Long said that the job of placing the museum pieces was made much simpler by the use of computer aided design (CAD) software that allowed him to create virtual rooms.

In spite of how useful those virtual rooms may have been, they could not possibly hold a candle to the reality this long-term project was brought forth.

Every inch of the historic building has been returned to the state it was in the infancy of the 20th century and no detail has been left out.

From the highly polished, but heavy-duty, door fixtures to the push-button light switches and breathtakingly beautiful restoration of the hardwood flooring, fireplace mantles and stairways, no detail was too small to be left out.

"We were even able to replicate the original green paint that covered the walls, so with the exception of certain required safety items, such as alarms and exit signs, it looks just as it did in 1904," Long said.

Not all of the rooms in the museum are for exhibits and one of the back rooms will become the permanent home of the Ashe County Historical Society. The space will be leased to the society for an undisclosed amount and place the society in the heart of Ashe history.

The downstairs also is the location of the museum's gift shop that will offer several items including CD's, walking sticks, post cards and several history books. The big draw of the gift shop is an operational loom that children will be permitted to operate (under supervision). The plan currently is to have several children add a row or two to a piece of fabric. When the piece reaches a suitable size it will be removed from the loom and put on display.

The main draw of the museum, the upstairs courtroom, is currently still under restoration, but according to Long it will be an easier job than the downstairs area because although it is a large space, it is a single room with few changes needed.

The big item for the museum will be the addition of an elevator, which is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and will come with a price tag of several tens of thousands of dollars.

Also, Long is looking for volunteers to help with the continued restoration and especially for artisans and craftspeople to work on specific displays, such as a scale model of the Virginia Creeper line and the logging industry.

For more information on the museum, click to www.ashehistory.org or call (336) 846-1904.?

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