Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Rowan Museum in Salisbury, N.C.

Sue is a wizard at finding places to go which are still close enough for me to visit comfortably. She often “discovers” places which I have passed without notice several times; such as this little museum in Salisbury, the seat of Rowan County. 

It’s located right next door to the Rowan County Court House and Police Station; two  places with which I am familiar. I’ve filed many documents in the one; and pled to a few citations in the other. But I never noticed the small Greek revival building next door on Main Street.

But Sue did. Actually she read about it in one of those little papers which most men don’t ever look at. You know; the local ones with coupons and gardening stuff. Also; apparently; articles about local historical sites in the area. That’s where she ran across this one.

Located on Main Street, next door; as I’ve said; to the Courthouse, is a small Greek revival building which looks as Southern as it can. It was built in 1855 and was home to the original County Courthouse until 1914, when the building next door opened. It is now home to the Rowan Museum and is open Monday through Saturdays from 10 AM to 6 PM and is free of charge; though donations are encouraged.

When you walk through the doors your senses are assaulted with color from all of the objects displayed in cases which line the walls of the main hallway. Off of this hallway; to either side; are rooms which are devoted to different aspects of the history of Rowan County. These rooms range from the early settlers; this was once the Western frontier, long before the Wild West of Hollywood fame; to the more modern ones about the mill towns and textile industry; which was once such a predominant part of the economy here.

The room dealing with the impact of the First World War locally was of special interest to me as my grandfather trained in nearby Spartanburg, S.C., right before shipping off to France in the summer of 1918, just in time for the final offensive drive to Berlin. All in all, this was a delightful meander back through the county’s attic; so to speak; not unlike the Smithsonian in its own unique way.

I know that Sue was especially delighted to see this room; which serves as the meeting room for the local DAR chapter, as she is a member in the Mooresville one. Her great, great, Grandfather Henry Pensinger fought in the Revolution; losing a leg at the Battle of Ticonderoga humping cannon over snowy mountains for the surprise raid on the British. Then they humped the cannon back over the same mountains on the way home.  There is also the actual old courthouse; which is located upstairs and I did not see. Sue did, and she can finish telling you about that as well as more about the local DAR chapter. Take it away, Sue....
The Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was chartered in 1898. It is named for Elizabeth Steele as she was a “Salisbury Patriot”, who operated a Tavern just up the street from this corner during the American Revolution. The story is that General Nathanial Greene stopped overnight at the Tavern. When Mrs. Steele realized he needed funds for his Troops, she gave him her life savings. (Note the money bag on her portrait on the wall.)

The second floor is the actual old courtroom with a wrap- around interior balcony.  You can stand in the balcony and imagine the old courtroom scenes below. It has been refurbished and is available for event rentals. To the side of the courtroom, are doors that lead you out to the exterior balcony that overlooks the historic downtown.

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