Museum of Ashe County History continues to enrich locals, tourists

By Jesse Campbell -

(file photo) The Museum of Ashe County History sees 15,000 guests annually.

JEFFERSON-Change is afoot at the Museum of Ashe County History.

While the aging 1904 Courthouse, which houses the county’s precious archives and artifacts, might seem static from the outside the interior of the museum is teeming with activity.

Museum officials are currently working on the implementation of a long-range plan, according to Lonnie Jones, president of the museum’s board of directors, to better serve guests by enhancing the historical experience.

The museum’s board has also formed a development committee and a courtroom restoration committee.

Since opening in 2010, the complete restoration of the main courtroom has been a pipe dream for the museum, but curators contend that officials are closer than ever to completing the exhibit and making it available to the public. If you ask some historians, the courtroom itself is haunted and was even once the subject of a paranormal investigation.

Museum officials are also hopeful that a joint effort with local merchants will lead to the creation of an adjoining historical complex, which could include living history cabins.

“Things seem kind of calm from the outside of building,” said Museum Director Ramona Renfroe. “When you drive by, you might see the flags out, but there’s a lot going on. Our board is filled with local business leaders, leaders in the faith community and retired folks with strong professional commitments. We have a small part-time staff. We are involved with the local community, as well as state museum communities. We have become a resource in our county for history. We’ve even been utilized for our archives.”

The museum has several exhibits, including rotating historical installations that depict local and national history.

Currently, the museum sees 15,000 guests annually. Renfroe said this is comparable to the traffic received at the Mt. Airy Regional History Museum, which relies on church groups and a large school system for its volume of visitors.

The most recent numbers show that 42 percent of the museum’s guests come from within the county.

“They are proud of their heritage,” said Renfroe.

The museum opened in 2010 after the courthouse sat dormant for more than a decade.

“At that time, we made a promise to not come seeking money on a regular basis,” said Jones. “But we appreciate the occupancy tax money we receive on a regular basis to operate the visitor center, Virginia Creeper Train Museum and the museum itself.”

Out of eight buildings like the courthouse, only six are standing.

“This is the only courthouse that did a restoration,” said Renfroe.

“It’s recognized by many people as one of the best small museums in the state,” said Jones.

(file photo)
The Museum of Ashe County History sees 15,000 guests annually. photo)
The Museum of Ashe County History sees 15,000 guests annually.

By Jesse Campbell

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