Council gives OK for former library to become museum

Natalie Netzel Staff Writer

November 22, 2013

NEWBERRY — Newberry County Council unanimously approved a resolution to convert the old library on Friend Street into the Newberry County Newberry College Museum.

The business plan still needs to be developed on behalf of the City of Newberry and Newberry College.

Newberry Mayor Foster Senn said there have been discussions with the city, committee and the Newberry County Historical and Museum Society but no official discussions have been held and no business plan has been developed.

County Administrator Wayne Adams said revenue and expenses for the museum will have to be examined as will what the city and the college can contribute.

Earnest Shealy from the Historical and Museum Society presented a brief history of the building, which was a post office before it became a library.

Newberry’s first post office was established in 1878 and the first postmaster was Frederick Nance, the namesake of Nance Street.

“The story of postmasters reads like a Who’s Who of Newberry,” said Shealy.

Shealy said the post office eventually moved from an old hotel room to the old Turner Photography building which then transferred into another old building. They then decided to construct the building on Friend Street, said Shealy. The present post office was built in 1966.

Shealy also told council that the architect was James Knox Taylor, who designed many other well known buildings including The Mint, the courthouse in Atlanta, Ga., and the immigration building at Ellis Island.

The building was inspired by a fine arts school in Paris that was popular around the turn of the 20th century, said Shealy.

“It’s a landmark in the truest sense of the word,” said Shealy.

Denise Reid also presented the values and vision for the new museum and said that the current museum on Nance Street is not that accessible and mostly unknown, which can have liability issues.

“Newberry County has unfortunately lost many artifacts to the state museum because they couldn’t be cared for properly,” said Reid.

The new museum would have intrinsic, instrumental and institutional values, said Reid who added that anything in the museum would be appreciated, accessible and displayed properly.

As for money, she pointed out that the state museum and EdVenture museum bring in millions of dollars each year.

Newberry College President Dr. Maurice Scherrens spoke about the significance of the museum and what it brings to Newberry.

“The college is 157 years old and has a rich history. It would be an honor to be one of its occupants. It’s scary to see how much history was lost because there was no museum. We are hiring a faculty member in January who will be the archivist,” said Scherrens.

Scherrens said economic development would be impacted by the museum as well as the educational field for college and K-12 students.

In other business:

— Council also unanimously approved the 2014 meeting schedule for county council. The council will continue to meet the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

— Council will not meet Jan. 1 because it’s a holiday or Aug. 6 because of the state’s annual conference for county councils.

— Louis Neiger approached council to ask what they can do in regards to making texting while driving and talking on cell phones while driving illegal in Newberry County.

“This is for everyone’s safety,” said Neiger, who lost his 23-year-old son in an accident in September in Prosperity.

District 40 Rep. Walt McLeod was at the meeting and said that the ban against texting while driving has been pending for about three years.

The issue will be referred to the public safety and courts committee.