Tryon History Museum moves forward

Published 12:18 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

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Tryon has always been proud of its unusual history. I have been here for 30 years now and I discover some new sliver of history every day. What a treasure trove we have!

In 2014, Happy McLeod, town councilwoman and president of the Tryon Downtown Development Association, launched the Tryon Historical Museum. After lots of searching, the museum was given a home on the lower level of the Owen’s Pharmacy complex. The owners were kind enough to let the museum have this space at a discounted rate. Since its inception, the museum has been housed at 26 Maple St. in downtown Tryon.

In 2018, the Tryon History Museum was appointed to be the official Visitor Center for The Town of Tryon.  The museum has continued to grow. The number of visitors has increased every year. People from all over the globe have visited the museum. They are so excited to discover our special little town. 

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Our most successful offering has been our program, “Tales of Tryon.” We invite knowledgeable locals and experts from outside our area to come and share their particular knowledge of our history. These programs are well-received and often end up with standing-room only. We quickly outgrew our museum space for these presentations and have since tried to hold our programs on location at other historic places in Tryon.  This has added another dimension to what we offer.

As 2020 dawned, we, as were many groups, were on the cusp of making more progress in improving our exhibits and programming while keeping our eyes out for a more suitable home. And then came Covid. We were closed for extended periods of time due to Covid restrictions. As we gradually re-opened we lost many of our docents who were concerned about health issues. Our exhibits suffered from heat, cold and humidity.

In addition, we were closed on a number of occasions due to physical problems with our building that caused safety concerns. Then in 2021, we were told that the entire Owen’s Drugstore complex had been sold and that extensive renovations were on the horizon. Whatever happened next, it was certain that we would have to move.

In January 2022, three seasoned board members rotated off the board, including founding member, Linda Lee Reynolds. Her leadership over eight years was much appreciated. The rest of 2022 was spent planning.  Exhibits had to be rethought. Space utilization had to be re-evaluated. New locations had to be researched.  And certainly, finances had to be studied and improved.

Late in 2022, the new owners of the building offered the History Museum the opportunity to move into the street front space of the old drugstore. How exciting, but how frightening! After many serious discussions, the Board endorsed the plan to move into this new space. This will be an exciting but challenging time for the Tryon History Museum. 

When the renovation of the space is completed, the Museum will be given a blank slate, or as known in developing, a “warm shell” of walls, flooring, basic lighting, heat/air and a bathroom. Any interior finishing or additional trim or furnishing will be the responsibility of the Museum.

To realize a first-class museum means that exhibits have to be formed, new docents recruited and trained, storage re-organized and new display stands and cabinets purchased.

Our 2023 operating budget is around $40,000. This budget allows for the increase in rent, utilities and insurance. It does not cover interior finishing and additional display furnishings.

We are actively pursuing grants, increased government support, increased membership and special donations to make this move happen. The whole community will have opportunities to join us in funding this special project. Working together we can all make this a museum to be proud of for years to come.

This is the biggest organizational development perhaps since the Tryon Fine Arts Center was redone. Join in the excitement and stay tuned for information about how you can help to make this new museum and visitor center a reality.


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