Relive History at the High Point Museum
The Triad is rich in history. We’re all familiar with the historic Revolutionary War battles and the 1960s sit-in movement at Woolworth’s that both took place in Greensboro and the Moravian settlers in Winston-Salem, but what many might not know is that High Point also has its own interesting past. To discover more about High Point’s role in our state’s history, just take a trip to the High Point Museum.
I’d never been to the museum but my husband had memories of watching blacksmiths in action when he was a young Boy Scout, so we thought this might be something fun to take our 3-year-old daughter, Lily, to see, as well as learn about some local history ourselves.
The High Point Museum is easy to get to, located on Lexington Avenue in the heart of High Point. Admission is free, although donations are greatly appreciated. The museum itself is housed in a newer, modern building, while just outside in the Historical Park are two authentic early American homes as well as a replica of an 18th-century blacksmith shop. The grounds also have an herb garden and picnic areas.
The museum offers permanent exhibits as well as an annual changing exhibit. We began our self-guided tour of the permanent exhibits in the main gallery, which offers insight into High Point’s past, beginning with the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There are replicas of the Native Americans who first settled the land, a timeline about the Quakers who came to the area in search of religious freedom, and part of a real covered wagon. There is also a piece of the 1852 Great Western Plank Road — High Point was first marked as the “high point” on the North Carolina Railroad between Goldsboro and Charlotte where it intersected the Plank Road.
We saw artifacts from High Point during the Great Depression and post-World War II memorabilia, including an original dinette table and stools from the first Krispy Kreme location in High Point. We also discovered why High Point is known as the “Furniture Capital of the World” as we learned about the history of furniture making and how it has evolved throughout the decades to what it is today.
Another little piece of local history that I did not know is that High Point is home to legendary jazz musician John Coltrane. The museum has some of Coltrane’s original sheet music, photos of his childhood High Point home where he lived for 17 years and offers an interactive video about his life and accomplishments.
The Hall of Commerce showcases local businesses that got their start in High Point and are still thriving. Some of the displays include Thomas Bus Systems, Northstate Communications and Hayworth Industries, the company that introduced office furniture. Lily loved climbing up in the big yellow school bus and pretending to drive.
Downstairs, at the bottom of a big spiraling staircase, is the gallery that houses the Museum’s current exhibit. Also downstairs is the Target Exploration Station, an interactive station with self-directed, hands-on activities for children and families. These activities are updated to correspond with each new changing exhibit.
This was a perfect distraction for Lily during our visit. The Station was stocked with hand puppets, books, dress-up clothes and crafts that related to the current exhibit, “Growing Seasons: An American Farm Family at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century.” This educational exhibit depicts a slice of American history as it showcases a year in the life of a rural farm family through casein paintings, pen and ink vignettes and artifacts. It gave us a little glimpse into what life was like before electricity and indoor plumbing and when everything was powered by hand.
After we finished our tour of the main museum with a quick stop in the Museum Shop, we braved the cold and headed out to Historical Park. On this particular Sunday, a costumed blacksmith was doing a demonstration in the Blacksmith Shop using fire to do metal work, which was quite interesting to watch. These demonstrations are usually held two weekends out of the month. The museum also offers other demonstrations by costumed interpreters such as open hearth cooking, ink making or candle making at various times throughout the year.
Next, we toured the Haley House. Built in 1786 by John Haley, a practicing blacksmith, this solid brick structure is the oldest house in High Point. At the time, the Haleys were considered wealthy, but it was still humbling to imagine how an entire family lived in such a small space. We also visited the Hoggat House, a log home built in 1801. Both structures were pretty amazing to see with their old furniture and other household items from the time period.
The museum is now preparing for the installation of a new exhibit, “High Point's Furniture Heritage,” an interactive exhibition on the history of furniture making in North Carolina. The exhibit will coincide with High Point’s 150th anniversary and will open May 26, 2009.
If You Go
High Point Museum
1859 E. Lexington Ave.
Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Sunday 1-4 p.m.
Historical Park Hours:
Daylight hours for strolling and picnicking.
Costumed tours Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sunday 1-4 p.m.