History Swannanoa

Spotlight on the Swannanoa Valley Museum Opening Day Set for April 16

The Swannanoa Valley Museum will open its doors for the season on Saturday, April 16th at 10 a.m. This year’s opening will be particularly exciting because the museum will be celebrating the 90th birthday of its building, as well as the 90th birthdays of two founding members who were instrumental in making the museum what it is today — Harriet Styles and Bill McMurray.  Everyone is invited to visit the museum on opening day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to celebrate these milestones, enjoy the museum exhibits, and help eat birthday cake.

Originally designed and built as the Black Mountain Fire House in The old fire house, now home to the Swannanoa Valley Museum1921, the building that houses the Swannanoa Valley Museum is an historic fixture in downtown Black Mountain. The building’s famous architect, Richard Sharp Smith, came to Western North Carolina in the late 1800s to work as supervising architect for the Biltmore House.  He loved the mountains so much, he decided to stay and form his own practice in the area.  During the 1920s, he designed several buildings in the Black Mountain area, including the building that now houses the museum.
The old fire station sat vacant for many years before it was leased to the Swannanoa Valley Museum in 1989.  Since then, numerous repairs have been made to make it a suitable museum space. In recent years, significant improvements have been made to the exterior of the building to ensure that it will continue to stand for centuries to come. More funds are needed to grow the museum’s community and exhibit space and to continue to preserve the building. The museum has restarted its capital campaign to raise funds for restoration of the building.
The museum has made the most of its limited display space.  The two exhibit rooms are packed with fascinating information about Swannanoa Valley history, including artifacts ranging from Native American projectile points and handmade dolls to early washing machines and toasters from Valley homes and businesses.  And this year, the museum has created a series of binders available to the public to peruse the thousands of vintage photographs in the Museum’s collection.  They also have several new exhibits:

100 Years of Scouting – This exhibit will honor the centennials of both the Boy Scouts (2011) and Girl Scouts (2012). Vintage uniforms and memorabilia collected from residents and the local Scout councils will be on display. This exhibit is sure to be nostalgic for visitors who have been active in these Scouting programs in their lifetimes, and a way for present-day Scouts to appreciate the long history of their organizations.


Brother, Brother, Brother, War is Not the Answer – The Museums In Partnership themed exhibit for 2011 is part of a national commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  Although there was no battle action in the Swannanoa Valley, many men from the Valley served in the war, and the museum will have letters from them and their families as part of the exhibit.

Pathways from the Past, Pathways to the Future – This major update of the museum’s permanent exhibit will interpret the collection and the story of the development of the Swannanoa Valley since prehistory along the theme of “Pathways.”

The Swannanoa Valley Museum is a treasure in our community.  Stop by on opening day and see for yourself.  To learn more about the museum and to find out how you can help with the capital campaign, please click here to visit their website.  The museum is located at 223 W. State St. in Black Mountain.

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