Museum Continues Restoration Effort

After four years of planning and allocating funds, the Ashe County Historical Society is finalizing steps in restoring the future home of the Museum of Ashe County History.

Five years ago, historical preservationists in the community began a campaign to preserve and restore a well-known county icon, the 1904 Ashe County Courthouse. Little did they know that their effort would evolve into Ashe County?s premier historical museum. The movement to develop and create a historical museum stemmed in part from the initial movement of saving the courthouse. Concerned citizen, Larry Parsons, piloted a petition to collect signatures from the community to save one of the county?s chief symbols.

After discovering the avid support the historical society had for the restoration movement of the courthouse, county government officials gave the courthouse to the society for a $ 1 per year. A subcommittee from the Ashe County Historical Society picked up the torch to shed some light on the need for a historical museum in Ashe County. Many historians argue that one does not truly realize their place in society without first discovering one?s historical roots. The Museum of Ashe County History offers visitors and history buffs alike the opportunity to glimpse back into Ashe County?s rich and prosperous past.

An 1895 horse-drawn buggy in original condition, military memorabilia, Virginia Creeper railroad relics, and Ore Knob Mine remnants are just a few of the numerous artifacts currently on display at the museum. According to Carol Williams of the Ashe County Historical Society, The Fifth Third Bank of Jefferson provided an additional stepping stone in making the dream of a respectable historical museum a reality by leasing an empty building across from the 1904 Courthouse to the Historical Society until the museum?s future home was up to par.

A T-21 grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation in the amount of $415,000 assisted in the restoration process of the courthouse but the historical society continues to search for additional funding to hasten the museum?s arrival. The courthouse?s entire infrastructure, including the electrical, heating, and plumbing components are completed and hidden from plain sight. Original hardwood flooring is now visible in the facility as all of the floors have been stripped back to reveal the original condition.

An accurate historical institution would not be possible without a knowledgeable and dedicated museum curator.

The historical society found Don Long. Long, a longtime resident of Ashe County, who cultivates a passionate taste for history. Since Long was a youngster in the hills of Kentucky, he followed a distinguished interest in history and firearms. According to the historical society, after Long served a stint in the U.S. Army he lent his wordsmith skills to the University of North Carolina were he earned a degree in English. Following graduation, Long relocated with his father to the mountains of Ashe County where he soon began work on restoring authentic horse-drawn carriages and artillery pieces. After his business venture in Ashe County Ordnance Works, Long moved through a new position at American Emergency Vehicles before leading the cause for a historical museum in Ashe County.

Currently, the museum is open in its temporary location across from the 1904 Ashe County Courthouse and visitors are encouraged to partake in the museum?s separate history by viewing various exhibits in the county?s first historical showcase Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

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