Museum plans expansion

April 29, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

Plans are being made to expand a Berkeley County farm museum devoted to preserving local agricultural history and educating younger generations about the toil of their ancestors.

"These are things from the past," Glenn Welsh said as he looked at old thrashers, bailers, wagons, buggies, axes and other items that speak of a time long gone.

Welsh is a farmer and a charter advisory board member for the L. Norman Dillon Farm Museum, off W.Va. 9 on Ridge Road in Hedgesville, W.Va.


"We are interested in preserving our heritage, our past," he said. "If we don't have people interested, it will be lost."

The board hopes to contribute to build new structures at the museum that will represent different aspects of antiquated farms.

Tim Yates, an architect with Grove & Dall'Olio Architects, has prepared a long-range plan for the farm museum that includes a replica of a late 1800s farmhouse which will serve as administrative offices. It also will be used as an educational facility for museum visitors.

The new facility will enable the farm to remain open year-round.

Also included in the plan are a milking parlor, a saw mill and a barn that will house exhibits related to planting, harvesting, transportation, crop storage and livestock.

The construction of the barn will be used as a learning tool. The barn's intricate frame could be shaped in different ways to demonstrate how farm building technology has progressed, according to the expansion plan.

Through the work of volunteers and money from state grants, the board completed work on a blacksmith shop in October. The shop is used for displays and demonstrations of the tools and products of the ancient trade.

An open shed is being built to house larger display items such as tractors, wagons and machinery.

Yates said the uses of the farm museum with the new buildings will be "limitless."

"It's history. ... This is where it all came from," said Raymond Arnett, treasurer of the museum board.

The museum's namesake, L. Norman Dillon, was born in 1902 and reared on a Hedgesville farm which eventually grew to encompass thousands of acres, Welsh said.

The museum takes up about eight acres of the land Dillon sold to the Berkeley County Board of Education in the 1970s. He wanted the land - about 500 acres - to be used solely for educational purposes.

Dillon requested that a museum be built to help preserve the agricultural history of the area, and left specific instructions and $10,000 at his death in 1975.

It took the advisory board about 10 years to construct the first building, which serves as the main museum structure.

Dillon stipulated that no admission fee could be charged for the museum, so the board is faced with the challenge of finding money to support the long-range plan.

Yates said the board is trying to get money through state and federal grants and appropriations.

Most of the construction so far has been voluntary. Historical items have all been donated or are on loan.

"Most people don't realize what we've got here," Welsh said. "When younger people bring their parents here, they relive their childhood. You can really see them light up."

The museum is open every Saturday and Sunday from April through October. Appointments can be made to visit the museum during the week.

A fall festival is held the second weekend in October. At that time, the dust is shaken off the farming tools and they are put to work.

Apple butter and cider are made using old techniques and then sold, wheat is thrashed with old machines, the blacksmith shop is in full operation and other farming demonstrations take place.

The event is free, but money made from the sale of food items is used to help maintain the museum.

For more information on the museum, upcoming events or to make an appointment to tour the facility, call 1-304-267-7519 or 1-304-263-2646.

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