Part of the charm of the newly opened Southeast Ohio History Center revolves around the building’s own rich heritage. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the stately brick church, built in 1916, stands apart on West State Street, right in downtown Athens.
“It’s a fascinating building,” explains Cyrus Moore, the museum’s History Corps representative. “It looks more like a civic building, really, than a church. But the materials are all local, including the brick, which was an important industry here.”
The expansive 18,100-square foot church once held a large congregation of parishioners but as the numbers dropped, members were looking for a buyer for the building.
Meanwhile, the Athens County Historical Society & Museum had long ago outgrown its space in a nondescript building around the corner. The nonprofit organization wanted a larger place to showcase its collection of artifacts depicting the life and times of those living in southeast Ohio. The historical society agreed to purchase the building and let the congregration continue to meet there.
On May 2, the Southeast Ohio History Center officially opened its doors for visitors.
One of a major exhibits on display right now, called “3000 Miles from Home,” shows various stories of southeast Ohioans who were involved in World War I.
“We have 8 different soldiers’ uniforms on display and we tell the story of what each of those people did before, during and after the war,” notes Moore, whose own family history has deep roots in Athens. “There is also a Boy Scout uniform from a 13-year-old kid who sold war bonds.”
Another exhibit projects images from a collection of glass lantern slides that reveal what life was like for families in the area from 1890 to 1920.
Make sure to save time to walk through the center’s display of around 50 quilts from local crafters.
And these exhibits are just the beginning, says Moore. “Our goal is to be a regional repository of information and artifacts. There are a lot of small museums and history societies in the region that don’t necessarily have the expertise to properly care for artifacts. We want to help these organizations and provide a place for visitors to get a better look at the people and events that have made southeast Ohio what it is today.”
The Southeast Ohio History Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To find more arts and culture things to do, click here!