Children's museum in Newnan will open in spring
By ELLEN CORKER
Enjoy the last days of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society’s painted horses display in downtown Newnan this holiday weekend and upcoming week, as preparations are being made to move the horses on Sept. 10.
The removal process will actually take place over several days, said Bette Hickman, a member of the historical society board who served on the committee for “A Horsey Affair” with Chair Barbara Tumperi. Hickman also painted one of the “colts” and involved her art students in the painting process — fitting since the project was aimed at helping fund a future Newnan children’s interactive museum.
The Clark Street house is across from Maggie Brown Kindergarten and just down Clark Street from the soon-to-be Hollis-McRitchie Furnishings Museum.
The local historical society is working with the Atlanta History Center to develop guidelines and methods to establish what they hope will be a “truly amazing children’s museum,” according to Pamela Prange, past-president of the historical society, who is currently serving as director for the separate Hollis-McRitchie museum project.
The objective of the children’s museum project is to have exhibits and programs that help children learn about everyday life, principles of natural and physical sciences, music and the arts, and appreciate history by using local products and people, Prange explained. Exhibits may include such topics as “Life and Times in Early Newnan,” where youngsters will learn about life in the 1800s. They will be able to play historic games, wear clothing and uniforms of the period, and explore buildings that were constructed in the 1800s.
The historical society’s mission is to provide a fun, interactive environment for children to explore the ever changing world around them. “Through history, arts, sciences and humanities we hope to stimulate the creative curiosity within them all,” Prange wrote in the museum proposal.
The historical society is currently focusing its efforts on opening the furnishings museum, which will be located in the classic, Georgian-style mansion at 74 Jackson St. The former home of Dr. and Mrs. Jimmy Thomasson, it most recently served as administrative offices for the former Newnan Hospital.
The plan is now for an opening of the furnishings museum in spring 2013.
The former Thomasson home is currently undergoing modifications such as adding a sprinkler system and improving restrooms. The home’s features include a foyer with a curved, suspended staircase and alcove midway. Other highlights are a walnut paneled den, beautiful crown molding throughout, and antique carriage lanterns.
Now owned by the city of Newnan, the home was donated by the Newnan Hospital Board of Directors. The city will lease the building to the historical society.
A bequest from Newnan native Edgar Baldwin Hollis, including $2 million in funds and a collection of antique furniture, makes the furnishings museum possible.
There will be a couple of public sneak preview opportunities of the completed renovations before furnishings are put in place, according to Prange.
“Night at the Museum,” a murder-mystery evening being planned in association with Newnan Theatre Company, will be held at the home on Oct. 20, with a Sunday matinee edition Oct. 21. The historical society and theater company will share the event proceeds. Dave Dorrell of the theater company is working on an original script with a 1920s theme, Prange said.
Also to be held at the home is a New Year’s Eve “Palmette” Ball, when historical society leaders plan to announce their next fiberglass statue fundraiser.
Palmette refers to a number of architectural features of the home — which visitors will be able to see at the New Year’s Eve ball.
Although originally from Newnan, Hollis spent most of his career in Washington, D.C., working for the National Security Agency’s Inter-Library Loan Division. Hollis’ mother was Margaret McRitchie, who was born and raised in Newnan.
The antiques that will eventually be on display in the Hollis-McRitchie Furnishings Museum include a beautiful desk, chairs, and a grandfather clock, said Prange. Visitors to the museum will also enjoy Hollis’ books. “We have a fabulous collection of first-edition books,” she said.
Prange said the society is consulting with the Thomasson family to restore some of the original colors and details of the home. While the kitchen will be updated for use, its decor will be reflective of the more quaint 1920s era. “We’re hoping to take it back to the very closest,” said Prange.
A landscape architect has also been contacted about the grounds and how plantings can reflect the home’s history and architectural period.
The Hollis-McRitchie Museum will be an admission museum with costumed characters and guides offered as “part of the experience,” added Prange. The museum and grounds will be available for rent for events.
The historical society has been drawing on the expertise of Joanna Arrieta, director of historic homes for the Atlanta History Center. Arrieta, who is in charge of the collections and interpretations for the Margaret Mitchell House, the Swan House and the Smith Family Farm, has been helping NCHS with an interpretative plan for the furnishings museum and the children’s museum.
The art exhibit of painted horses organized by NCHS began this spring with the colorful fiberglass horses and colts appearing around downtown Newnan and the Greenville Street Park. Funding was from secured sponsorships of the artsy horses.
The historical society continues to operate the Male Academy Museum at 30 Temple Ave., adjacent to the city park. Proceeds from the sale of items at the Male Academy’s gift shop help fund the non-profit’s efforts to preserve local history, including establishment of these new museums. Also, the History Center in the historic train depot on East Broad Street, where the city is currently doing parking lot construction, features a display of Civil War murals by local artist Martin Pate. Tracks at the depot are the spot where Confederate and Union forces began the fighting that resulted in the Battle of Brown’s Mill south of Newnan during the Civil War.
To make a donation in support of NCHS, send to P.O. Box 1001 in Newnan, GA 30264. Information on the society is available at www.nchistoricalsociety.org or call 770-251-0207.