Museum’s 'Valley in the Alley' exhibit begins to take shape


At the end of January, the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center began installing engraved red and granite bricks and pavers in its outdoor Valley in the Alley exhibit.

You can see the northern ridgeline of the Swannanoa Valley beginning to take shape as well as the two dedication pavers.

The exhibit is located, fittingly, in the alley owned by the museum between the museum and the Dripolator Coffee House, just off West State Street.

"We thought we could make the alley safer and more attractive and in the process create something that is both educational and entertaining," John Corkran, a museum board member who came up with the concept, said: "An important bonus will be that the net income from paver sales will be available to maintain and enhance museum programming."

Through the program, people, families and businesses can buy and "own" a piece of history - a variety of special pavers that will form the geographic outline of the Swannanoa Valley and locate major points of special interest, such as communities, dwellings and landscape features.

“We are so excited for the community to see this unique map of our valley begin to take shape in the alleyway," museum director Anne Chesky Smith. "We hope it will help everyone visualize how the final project will look.”

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

Figuring out the placement of bricks was not simple. Graphic artist Neil Thomas laid out the initial design. And Chesky Smith, working with Corkran and a number of employees from the town, were able to place each brick in its proper location on the map.
“We really couldn’t have done the installation without the help of town employees Keith Belt, Chris Sloan, Gabe Martin, Adam Shelton and Mark Calisti. Their expertise was vital in getting the bricks in the right place,” Chesky Smith said.

Making the alley possible are museum staff, board members, architects and contractors John Buckner (standing, left to right), Bill Hamby, Anne Chesky Smith, Yolanda Smith, Peter Looper, John Ewing, John Fisher, John Corkran, Jim McConnaughy, Carol Tyson, Jack Jones (sitting, left to right), Katherine Cutshall, Bill Alexander and Sally Biggers.

The first round of bricks has been installed, and the museum is now collecting orders for the second round of bricks, which will be sent to the engraver at the end of February. Regular 4- by 8-inch brick pavers containing three lines of text sell for $100. The 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 and increase in cost and available text, depending on the size of paver. Particularly popular have been bricks commemorating hikers who have finished the museum’s popular Rim Hike series. These granite bricks are $200 and include a mountainous ridgeline along the bottom of the brick.

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 of historic interest are available for special recognition or dedication. 
This spring, the museum hopes to also install three benches in the alleyway. Benches are available for sponsorship as well.

For more or to purchase a brick, visit the museum website at or call 669-9566.