Swannanoa Valley Museum reopens after renovations

Staff reports

The Swannanoa Valley Museum will celebrate the completion of the interior renovation of Black Mountain’s 1921 Fire House with an open reception on Friday, June 17 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and an open house on Saturday, June 18 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

At both events, Museum board members and staff will offer free tours of the renovated building. They will highlight some of the more impressive aspects of the original building unveiled during construction, including large box trusses supporting a cathedral ceiling, the original pine flooring, and the location of the fire pole. Refreshments will be served at the reception on Friday evening.

The reception will also be the first opportunity for the public to purchase bricks designating locations across the Swannanoa Valley for placement in the museum's  outdoor exhibit, Valley in the Alley. Part of the restoration and renovation of the historic Black Mountain Fire House, Valley in the Alley is intended to  educate and entertain residents and visitors to the Swannanoa Valley.

The alleyway was completed with red brick in May. As granite bricks are purchased, the outline of the Rim of the Swannanoa Valley will emerge.

The Valley in the Alley exhibit will be located, fittingly, in the alley owned by the museum between the museum and the Dripolator Coffee House, just off West State Street in Black Mountain. The  asphalt surface has been removed and the alley has been resurfaced with brick pavers. This is not only consistent with the fire house, designed in 1921 by Richard Sharp Smith, who was the consulting architect to George Vanderbilt. It also reflects Smith’s choice of brick for paths and drives at many of his projects.

The exhibit is based on the sale of engraved brick pavers, but with an approach distinct from the usual random placement of pavers. Purchasers of all engraved bricks within the alley will have the opportunity to honor or memorialize friends and recognize special achievements as in other paver programs. Through the purchase of a variety of special granite pavers, individuals, families and businesses will own “a piece of history” by forming the geographic outline of the Valley, one that locates major points of  interest, such as communities, dwellings and landscape features.

The result will be a mosaic which will show the north and south ridgelines of the Swannanoa Valley, as well as the major geographic features on and within the ridgelines. The points will trace the evolution of the settlement to the vibrant community it is today.

When the Valley in the Alley is complete, it will be a primer for children, acquainting them with the geography and history of the Swannanoa Valley. It will quickly orient visitors to what they are seeing around them. It will allow generations of families to recall and tell of their place in the Valley’s history. And it will be an aesthetically pleasing walkway, complementing both the museum building and Black Mountain’s historic downtown.

Regular 4- by 8-inch brick pavers holding three lines of text will sell for $100. Engraved granite pavers that form the special features of the mosaic start at $200 for one 4- by 8-inch paver with three lines of text, increasing in cost and available text depending on the size of paver chosen. About 4,000 pavers make up the alley, of which nearly 600 will form the outline of the Valley. Along the outline and within the Valley, more than 100 sites are available for special recognition or dedication.

Once the initial cost for acquiring and placing pavers is recovered, all proceeds from the Valley in the Alley purchases will be devoted to completion of the renovation and the operations of the Swannanoa Valley Museum, including exhibits, on- and off-site programming, outreach to schools, preservation and research.

Renovations revealed large box trusses supporting a cathedral ceiling, the original pine flooring, and the location of the fire pole.

For more about the Valley in the Alley opening reception or the museum open house, visit Swannanoa Valley Museum , call 669-9566, or email info@swannanoavalleymuseum.org.