A look back at Swannanoa High School

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

An exhibit coming to Swannanoa Library will give visitors a chance to learn more about the history of the community’s old school - or relive their experiences there.

The Swannanoa Valley Museum’s exhibit, “The Swannanoa High School … Past and Future in Pictures,” goes on display Monday, Jan. 2.

The display will provide a look back at the history of the school, which served as the high school for children in Swannanoa until it merged with rival Black Mountain High School to form Owen High School in 1955.

“We’re going to look at the school’s chronology,” museum assistant director Katherine Cutshall said. “We’ll also look back at how schooling really started in the area and how Swannanoa High School came to be.”

The last basketball team to play for Swannanoa High School poses for a final team photo.

In September, the Buncombe County Board of Education approved a contract with Hickory Construction Co. to renovate the old school building, now home to the Community High School. The renovation plans call for the school to keep its historic facade and gymnasium.

Swannanoa Library manager Carla Hollar thought the timing couldn’t be better for the exhibit.

“The idea behind it was, since they’ll be redoing the building, we knew it may be something that was in the news a little more in the coming months,” she said. “We wanted people to bring out any items they have from the old school to help keep the memory of that school alive.”

Among the items being displayed are copies of the school’s newspaper, The Swann, which ran from 1919 until the school closed.

“We’re going to also look at some of the sports and other extracurricular activities that went on there,” Cutshall said. “We have a lot of pictures, papers and cards and things like that, but not a lot of memorabilia.”

An exhibit at the library "gets the museum out of the museum," according to Cutshall, who said that kind of community outreach can prompt community members to remember artifacts that they may still have in their possession. 

"It helps give the museum a presence in the Swannanoa Valley outside of downtown Black Mountain," she said. "We do a small exhibit like this and people remember that they have a small trophy, or jacket, or whatever, that belonged to their grandparents and then they ask us if we'd like to display it."

The exhibit will remain on display until April.