Unicoi County museums to open new season with music

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated May 4, 2017 at 9:11 PM

ERWIN — The Unicoi County Heritage and Clinchfield Railroad museums will open for their 35th annual season on Saturday with a festive day of music and open house tours.

An opening ceremony will be conducted at 1 p.m. and will be followed by a performance of old-time music by Art Lang and Friends.

Volunteers will also be on hand to welcome guests in for a look around the museums’ collections of artifacts from the community’s past.

Housed in a three-story, turn-of-the-century home that once served as the residence of the superintendent of the National Fish Hatchery in Erwin, the Unicoi County Heritage museum showcases the county’s history in nine uniquely themed rooms furnished and maintained by community organizations.

The home’s well-preserved collections include the fish hatchery superintendent’s office, a Blue Ridge Pottery dining room set with hand-painted works from the county’s world renown Blue Ridge Pottery, a parlor of antique furnishings provided by the Erwin Art League, an early 1900s kitchen, a quilt room showcasing the needle crafts of more than a century ago and others.

Related attractions on the museum grounds include a one-room schoolhouse, a nature trail, a trackside picnic pavilion and a second, free-standing museum dedicated entirely to Erwin’s rich railroad history.

Constructed in replica of the former Fishery Train Depot, the Clinchfield Railroad Museum is dedicated to the history of a what was once “a marvel of modern railway engineering” headquartered in Erwin.

With 55 named tunnels passing through the barriers of the Blue Ridge Mountains and five Southern Appalachian states, the Clinchfield provided the shortest direct route from the Appalachian coalfields to the South Atlantic seaboard, a claim to fame that remains a great point of pride in the town that grew up around the railroad.

In celebration of the many chapters of the county’s history, Art Lang and Friends will be playing “old-time music in the old-time way.”

The group features Lang on fiddle, claw hammer banjo, guitar, autoharp and harmonica, Peggy Holtsaw on vocals and doghouse bass, and Charles Aldridge on guitar. Their Saturday performance will include historic songs and ballads of the mountains, railroading songs, gospel standards, string band tunes and the stories and interpretive information behind many of the songs.

The Unicoi County Heritage and Clinchfield Railroad museums will be open from 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday through October. Admission for guided tours of both museums is $4 for adults and $2 for children. More information about the museums may be obtained and tours may be scheduled by calling 423-743-9449 or 423-743-8923.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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