BLACKSBURG — The establishment of the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation inside the Alexander Black House was a historical milestone.
Visitors, however, could only explore half of the historic property during the past five years as the organization’s board and operators waited for the funds to open the remainder of the space to the public.
That wait has finally come to an end — and was celebrated during an Oct. 5 grand opening — as the second floor of the 9,036-square-foot Victorian-era structure on Draper Road is now open.
Some small work still remains, but the project generally turned out well, said Town Councilman John Bush, who serves on the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation board.
“I think it’s a huge deal,” he said. “We’ve been trying for some time to get that upstairs completed, to open to the public and increase the amount of activities that can go on in the house. … We’re just generally happy about getting the whole house largely done and being able to offer that to the public.”
The roughly $500,000 renovation revamped the second floor to expand the museum space and provide designated rooms for visitors and various groups in the community.
The museum is a repository of local culture and history.
The renovation of the second floor will try to grow that mission, foundation Executive Director Rhonda Morgan said.
“There’s really no one place you can come to find out about Blacksburg’s history,” she said. “We’re trying to really centralize that information here.”
Alexander Black was the great-great-nephew of Blacksburg founder William Black. The descendant built the house in the late 1890s and lived in it until his 1935 death.
After that the property operated as a funeral home for 60 years before the town bought it. The town leases the space to the museum.
The property was originally located on Main Street, but was transported to its current location in 2008 to make way for the Kent Square office, retail and parking complex.
The house’s second story now boasts repainted walls and hardwood flooring. An elevator also exists to make the space fully accessible.
A grand staircase just to left of the house’s main entrance leads to a hallway overlooked by a large flat-screen television playing a video clip of the town’s history. Just below and to the left of the television screen is a display occupied by a single Civil War-era rifle.
That part of the project isn’t quite complete yet, Morgan said, as plans call for the addition of a timeline display on the walls to show the town’s key historical points.
The timeline will outline historic points such as the mid-1700s, the Smithfield Plantation era, the Antebellum period and the establishment of Virginia Tech, Bush said.
“It’s major bullet points, but it’s also intended to pique folks’ interests,” he said.
The second floor also features designated rooms.
The Ronnie and Faye Marcum Blacksburg History and Genealogy Center will allow visitors to sit down and peruse publications on local history. The room includes a computer that will allow visitors to perform genealogical research.
Morgan said a scanner will also be installed so that visitors can provide the museum with copies of photographs and documents.
Next to the history and genealogy center is a community collaboration room, which Morgan said will be a meeting space for businesses, nonprofits and civic groups.
Then, across the hall is what’s called the education and workshop room, where small classes on topics such as arts, crafts and history can be taught.
“We’re also using it as a place to display educational memorabilia,” Morgan said.
On the end of the second floor opposite of the grand staircase is another stairway, overlooked by a glass display currently filled with models of historic properties and landmarks. Among the properties is the Blacksburg Motor Company, which currently houses some of the town’s municipal offices.
Then in a corner below the display is a piece of the old sycamore from Virginia Tech’s Henderson lawn.
“We’re just getting started,” Morgan said.