By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County Historical Museum (BCHM) recently announced that it is moving down the block to 26 East Main Street.
Due to the upcoming renovations to the historic Botetourt County Courthouse, the museum needed a new home. Museum Executive Director Lynsey Allie wanted to find the best place for the museum’s new location.
“Finding a new location was paramount,” Allie stated in a recent email. “Thanks to a generous donation from one of BCHS’ founding members, Joe Buhrman, funds were available to begin the process.
“With the help of the Town of Fincastle and the BCHS board of directors, the former law office of Rob Hagan was researched as a possible location. We have always been a bit strapped for space, so we are hoping to be able to stretch out a bit more in our new home. We will now be at 26 East Main Street, so we aren’t moving far!”
The Botetourt County Historical Society & Museum opened its doors on November 27, 1966, directly behind the courthouse in the building owned by Botetourt County. The original brick building dates to the late 18th century, which they added onto in the 1850s to add to the Western Hotel complex and in the 1930s was converted into apartments by Dodd & Dodd. Botetourt County acquired the building in 1961.
The museum contains documents and articles of use in daily living dating to 1770 and items from the original county courthouse. With the expansion of a more modern and secure courthouse, BCHS learned that the current museum building would be preserved and moved to another location within Courthouse Square. At this point, Allie believes that is still the plan. So, how will the museum move its contents?
“I’d say the biggest obstacles were to find a new space for the museum and just the logistics of packing and moving a full range of artifacts that chronicles the history of Botetourt County,” Allie continued. “It isn’t as easy as when you move to a new house and are able to wrap your breakables in newspaper and box them up relatively easily; we’ve got the original Fincastle courthouse witness chair from 1770 and the Breckinridge Bible and just tons of delicate pieces that have to be packed and transported in certain ways to ensure their continued survival.
“(Moving delicate pieces) makes for slow-going and requires a lot of volunteer hours, and we have been so fortunate to have a small dedicated group that has worked almost nonstop to help get this done. And, of course, there’s the other end of that too; once we get into our new space, we are going to have to take lots of time unpacking items. This is the second museum move I’ve been involved with, and it really is just a daunting task from start to finish.”
One of the benefits of the museum’s move is that the Botetourt County Historical Society owns its new home. The county previously owned the 3 West Main Street location. Allie is excited for a chance to “broaden the scope” of the museum’s activities and organization moving forward.
The 26 East Main Street location is the former Hagan Law Office and represents one of the many historical buildings in the courthouse district.
Another benefit is the museum’s new easy-to-find location.
“While we loved our original location, I think we sometimes got ‘lost’ behind the courthouse,” Allie added. “Many folks didn’t realize we were there, so I’m hoping our increased visibility will bring in more visitors to the museum.”
Allie mentioned the positive response by the community has been “overwhelming.”
So, what’s next for the museum?
“Right now, it’s hard to say,” Allie said. “December 31, 2021, was our last ‘official’ business day, and BCHS closed the museum behind the courthouse. Items can still be purchased from the bookstore by calling or leaving a message at 540-473-8394.
“We’d obviously love to just hit the ground running and really go full steam ahead into 2022, but as I mentioned before, it’s going to take some time to unpack and get our permanent exhibit reestablished; plus, we are still in the midst of the unknown with COVID still lingering. I’d like to see us back open and operating as normal by spring/summer, but only time will really tell, as far as an official reopening date.
“The Botetourt Town & Country Women’s Club and the Botetourt County DAR have been busy painting and fixing the former Hagan building, for which we are so grateful for their help.”
For more information about the Botetourt Historical Society & Museum, visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BCHSM/.
We lived in the brick house to the left of this beautiful home in the mid 70’s while our home was being built in Montvale. The wonderful lady who lived there was a retired teacher and was a wealth of information. She would have my sister and myself over after school – Breckenridge Elementary – for tea, which she had these amazing chocolates and beautiful sitting room in the front left. When we lived here there was a corner store on the right hand side of the street and a store up the block and around the corner on the left.