Follow The Republic:
THE Bartholomew County Historical Society began looking for new digs in 1982.
Actually, the search was for additional digs. Members of the organization were quite happy with the historic McEwen-Samuels-Marr house on Third Street, which had served as both office and museum for the society since 1969 when a remodeling of the courthouse forced a move out of its basement quarters.
But the 19th-century home on Third Street could provide only 3,500 square feet of space. Obviously, things got crowded as the society acquired more artifacts.
Many of those artifacts had to be dispersed to other locations in and around Columbus. A great many were sent to the society’s Henry Breeding Farm in the northern part of the county. In more recent years, thousands of items were stored in the United Way building (former headquarters for Arvin Industries), and miraculously, most of them were salvaged after the disastrous Christmas Eve fire in 2009.
Many of them were relocated to a storage area offered by Martha Smock.
The search for more space has been twofold — room for storage but also a facility that could better showcase local history through exhibits and presentations.
For most of the past 30 years the effort has centered on Columbus. Early plans were a little vague. Some thought was given to constructing a new building, which would be called a historical center, but cost projections squelched most of those visions.
In time the society’s board of directors looked at available sites around town. A next-door neighbor, the old ice house, got a lot of consideration, but negotiations eventually stalled. A hard push was made for a promising site on downtown Washington Street, but the price tag for the space available was deemed out of reach.
Surprisingly, a solution was presented and acted upon in a relatively short time. For now, at least, the historical society has a second home, one with more than 17,000 square feet of space that can accommodate a good share of the artifacts crammed away in a number of nooks and crannies and provide settings for a variety of exhibits. It’s in Hope.
Sometime next spring, Julie Hughes, executive director of the society, plans to open the doors of the Hawcreek Heritage Arts Center on Aiken Street in Hope to visitors.
Julie describes the complex, which was opened as Paden Engineering and later transferred to Cape Coral Steel, as an annex or addition to the county museum. Ironically, it will be able to host events and exhibits that would have been nearly impossible to stage at the house on Third Street.
“We had essentially hit a wall in our hopes of finding space in downtown Columbus,” Julie said this week. “Although we had done quite a few outreach programs in Hope, we really hadn’t given much thought to that as a potential site for the addition. It was only recently that one of our board members mentioned the availability of a building in Hope, and on inspection it proved to be ideal for our needs.”
The society’s board approved the acquisition, which initially would be on a lease arrangement with an option to purchase at a later date. “We want to see how this will work out in the long run,” Julie said.
The property is owned by Ken and Liz Patton of Columbus under the name of Hope for Prosperity LLC.
The building also has the potential for even more diverse uses than storage and display. It can accommodate classrooms and offer spaces where visitors can explore and participate in such trades of the past as tinsmithing, pottery, paper-making and even blacksmithing.
Of primary importance is the fact that it is accessible to the disabled. “That has been a real issue for us at the museum (on Third Street),” Julie said. “We have a tremendous number of school groups that go through our museum, and it’s heartbreaking when one or more of the students are affected by the inaccessibility.”
The new center won’t be lacking for company. Hope can actually argue that it has more museums than Columbus. In addition to the center, it already has the Yellow Trail Museum, the historical display for the Rural Free Delivery Mail system and the One Room Schoolhouse.
Another entry into that sweepstakes might be the cause for some hard feelings, but so far Julie reports that the society has encountered only encouragement.
“We got a card in the mail congratulating us on the Hope project,” she said. “It was signed by the entire board of directors for the Yellow Trail Museum.”
The museum isn’t the only winner in this arrangement. Hope, which was recently rebuffed by the county’s Visitors Information and Promotion Commission in its efforts to get funding for the town’s welcome center, gains a valuable asset in drawing people.
Ironically, a lot of those folks likely will be Columbus residents.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.