Hope museum celebrates opening new visitor information center

HOPE — The Yellow Trail Museum, on the northwest corner of the Hope Town Square, is celebrating the newest chapter in its 42-year history.

An official grand opening for the Yellow Trail Museum Visitor Information Center, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony, will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

Last year, the museum — at 644 Main St. — was able to acquire 33 percent more space after obtaining part of what had been an adjacent accounting firm. The acquisition resulted in extensive renovations including recreating an archway connecting the two buildings, as well as restoring hardwood floors and tin ceilings.

After Hope Wellness Pharmacy announced in late December that it was acquiring the Simpson building at 645 Harrison St. next to the Hope library, the Columbus Area Visitors Center moved its satellite operation out of the facility.

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The Visitor Information Center has been operating at the museum in a low-key fashion since April 1, due in part to Paige Waltz, the museum’s first paid employee, said long-time museum board member Barb Johnson.

Despite these new developments, origins of the museum date back more than a century. In 1915, Hope auto mechanic Elda Spaugh painted yellow stripes around utility poles from neighboring larger communities leading to Hope as a directional gimmick to bring customers to his business.

More than 60 years later, Spaugh’s clever advertising gimmick led to the May 1975 founding of the museum. When the Yellow Trail Museum opened for the first time on Sept. 27, 1975, organizers said it was intended to not only show various items relevant to Hope’s past but also memorabilia from other surrounding communities including Flat Rock, Clifford and Petersville.

The initial artifacts included an old church pew, lard presses, an old sleigh, 19th-century school desks — and even the death bed of Hope founder Martin Hauser.

Longtime Hope community leader Merrill Clouse, who died last April at the age of 95, was instrumental in establishing the museum by donating two upstairs rooms. Other founders included William F. Heilman, Mary Frances Urbahns, Elizabeth Moore and Horace Schaefer.

With the exception of Waltz, the museum remains an all-volunteer organization led by board president Bill Johnson.

The exhibits have grown to include life-size replicas of an old-time soda fountain shop, drug store, physician’s office, barber shop and general store.

Most of the items were either donated or have been loaned to the museum by past or present Hope residents, Barb Johnson said.

The 2016 expansion also allowed the creation of a genealogy research center that is open on Mondays and Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While Barb Johnson describes the number of residents who have utilized the research center since April as light, she said most people wait until the cold weather months to look up genealogical records.

“In summer, they are usually out in the cemeteries,” Johnson said.

She’s hopeful Thursday’s event will make more residents aware of the resources available through the museum.

Funding from the Columbus Area Visitors Center is used to pay Waltz’ salary, as well as cover utility expenses, Barb Johnson said. However, the museum still largely depends on volunteers and contributions to handle expenses not directly related to tourism, she said.

If you go

What: Grand opening of the Yellow Trail Museum Visitor Information Center

When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday

Where:  644 Main St., Hope, northwest corner of the Hope Town Square

Activities: Light refreshments, an official ribbon cutting, a brief welcome speech and opportunities for guests to explore displays and ask questions.

Information: Barb Johnson at 812-371-7969 or Paige Waltz at 812-546-8020.

2017 Yellow Trail Museum board members

Bill Johnson, president

Susie Dodd, vice president

Steve Robertson, secretary

Andrew Galbraith, treasurer

Board members:

Carrie Harris

Erin Anderson

Rodney Dailey

David Bruner

Taylor Hurt

Aleah Smith

Kathie Clouse

Julian Smith

Barb Johnson

Jessica Brown

Steve McKinney

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.