The courtroom where convicted murderers Will Banks and Paul Wilson Bare learned their fate is getting a makeover of sorts.
A campaign is already underway to restore the old upstairs courtroom at the Museum of Ashe County History, in Jefferson, to its original 1904 look, and interested donors have an opportunity to leave their mark on local history — literally.
According to Museum Director Ramona Renfroe, for $250, donors can have one of the original 180 seats in the courtroom.
“We have 180 of the original seats in the courtroom,” Renfroe said. “It’s $250 per seat.”
The money will go towards the cost of refinishing and repainting the chairs, as well as restoring the interior of the courthouse to its original look.
“We’re really excited,” Renfroe said.
Each seat will have a brass plaque fixed to the back with the name of the donor(s) or in-memoriam engraved upon it.
The museum has staged similar fundraising campaigns in the past, like offering custom-designed and hand-painted bricks to be incorporated into a special memorial wall and landscape garden on the old courthouse grounds.
“We didn’t start (the campaign) with a big bang,” Renfroe said. “We’ve had a slow moving start.”
The old courtroom served as the only courtroom in Ashe County from 1904-2000, when the county offices moved to the current location off U.S. 221. The room has served more or less as a storage facility for museum artifacts, files and old courthouse items, since the museum relocated to the building in December 2012.
The first sets of chairs will be finished by month’s end. Once finished, Renfroe said interested donors will be able to see what the refinished chairs will look like.
Renfroe also said museum workers are in the process of replacing wire hat racks in the courtroom, where men would hang their hats upon entering the courtroom.
“It’s gonna look really beautiful,” Renfroe said of the restored courtroom.
The museum is steadily becoming a big attraction for residents and visitors to Ashe County. The “Virginia Creeper” exhibit and diorama, World War II exhibit, Ashe County Sports Hall of Fame and soon-to-open Ore Knob Mine exhibit and diorama are worth multiple visits.
Renfroe said anyone interested in buying a seat or taking part in the restoration of the courtroom can stop by the museum.
For more information, stop by the museum or call Renfroe at 336-846-1904.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.