A New Museum Home at Mary Gertrude Fox Park
After completion of a detailed strategic planning process, the board of the Greeneville Greene County History Museum voted overwhelmingly to move The Museum to a new structure on the land at the corner of Main and McKee already owned by the Museum. We asked local architect Dave Wright, who knows the present building and is familiar with The Museum's collections, to design the structure that would be specific to Museum use and accessible to all.
The Andrew Johnson School Building, current home of The Museum, was built in 1916. While the city has provided the building, The Museum has installed heating and air conditioning systems at considerable expense, added alarm systems, and maintained the interior portions of the building it uses. The building does not meet current fire codes nor does it conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Museum wishes that all those with disabilities could have access to visit all of our galleries, but that is not the case. Merely installing an elevator would not solve the issues with fire codes, electrical problems, and inadequate plumbing. Many classrooms have a single electrical outlet, and there is one public toilet in The Museum. That's a logistical problem for group tours.
There is also concern about lead paint and asbestos in the building. Any construction at the current site would likely cause those two concerns to be serious obstacles to the use of the building. We have received estimates of well over two million dollars to bring the building up to code. Those estimates do not include any exhibit improvement. Additionally, the building has ongoing problems with moisture and fluctuating temperature, increasing the likelihood of damage to The Museum’s collections. The heating/cooling system and the roof are nearing the end of their useful life. You may remember that the county Emergency Management Agency moved out of the lower level earlier this year after gas and water leaks.
Why This Design?
Some might wonder about the more contemporary style, but Greeneville has several architectural styles within the downtown area. It always has. During the Civil War, Depot Street was largely populated with wooden buildings that were more like barns. Even the Valentine Sevier house - that grand white original on South Main - is partially a log cabin under the siding. The new building will be a fine fit without being a bad copy of something else.
The proposed structure is an energy-efficient steel building with no interior support posts to block views or floor space. The architectural rendering features an exterior of polished Tennessee blue stone and white granite. Those vertical green panels you see are merely examples of where banners might promote exhibits. Built into the front is a quilt square made of stained glass, positioned to catch the natural daylight and designed by nationally known Greeneville glass artist Mark Russell. The rear of the building - facing College Street and the Seth Babb log home - will have a 70 foot wide deck looking over the log home and Richland Creek. All public spaces will be on one floor with no stairs. Increased parking spaces for cars and buses will benefit other tourist attractions such as the Presidential Homestead.
The design plan calls for solar cells hidden on the roof to reduce power costs and LED lighting for efficiency. There is a meeting room for up to 130 people that will be available for local groups when not used by The Museum. Exhibit space will increase by about 25%, and climate-controlled storage space on a lower level by over 100%. The main exhibit area will have floating walls and dividers that can be changed over time and moved when needed.
What Will Be In The New Structure?
In short, everything you now see will be in the new building. We will be able to rotate exhibits to keep things fresh. Two rotating or temporary galleries will allow The Museum to host large traveling shows from The Smithsonian and other museums. Some present exhibits, separated because of the classroom size in the present building, will be combined. There is still a Children's Adventure gallery, located near the front lobby. The Magnavox gallery will be there, no longer out of reach for those with disabilities. Appalachian Life will transport visitors from the earliest days and Greeneville's Big Spring to living a simple life or a fancier lifestyle. Quilts, clothing and artifacts from Greene County furniture makers and potters will all be there. Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction will cover the periods overlapping the Civil War. Agriculture - Living off the Land will chronicle farm life and the effects of tobacco and the dairy industry, plus the Lamons Wagon Company's long local tenure. Stroll the Streets of Greeneville will include displays of photos plus reconstructed downtown storefronts for taking a walk through history. The award-winning Earl Fletcher, Jr Veterans Memorial Gallery will be there, better than ever. Two rotating feature galleries will complete the bigger, better space.
What Will Be The Cost?
Estimates for the new structure are 1.2-1.5 million dollars plus gallery updates. That's a lot of money, but much less than the cost of making the present building safe, accessible, and functional. It's also an investment in Greene County's heritage and a stronger tourist attraction, located next to the President Johnson home and across from the Car Museum. The Museum already owns the property.
We're actively working to provide the initial funding from community-minded individuals and companies plus applying for grants. When that goal is achieved, we will begin a more public campaign to make this new Museum home a reality.
Visit The Museum for Detailed Drawings
We invite you to come by and see the floor plan and get further details. We will be happy to answer questions and to speak to local civic groups. Contact Betty Fletcher at 423-636-1558 or email her.
Looking Back ~
Looking Back ~ Moving Forward...
Building a New Museum Home
The Museum Is Open:
We welcome members and visitors Tuesday-Saturday 11AM-4PM. Please observe proper social distancing when visiting The Museum. Masks are now required under county ordinance. We have disposable masks available. Special sanitation steps are being taken. The Children's Greene Adventure Gallery will remain closed because of the hands-on nature of this gallery. We appreciate your patience and understanding.
A New Museum Home:
Get more information about the new Museum building on this site. Click here.
The Greeneville Greene County History Museum is one of only seven museums in America to complete the gold/top tier certification in all six areas of operation with the American Association of State and Local History.
Copyright 2020. Greeneville Greene County History Museum. All rights reserved.
Photo Credits: Museum Archives, Linnie Greene, Randi Nott, Amy Saxonmeyer, Dan Spice