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Hampton Depot Museum now open to the public

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

History enthusiasts can visit the Hampton Depot Museum to see sports trophies dating back more than 70 years, a liquor bottle from the prohibition era, and a 1912 wooden wheelchair.

The wheelchair, one of the latest items to join the museum's artifacts collection, was lent in April by the Woodmen of the World Hampton Lodge No. 491.

Other items on display include a safe from the 1800s, an old train ticket counter, and the whiskey bottle from one of the three "speakeasies" that were in downtown Hampton during the prohibition era, said Candy Franklin, Hampton Main Street Director and the curator of the museum.

The museum, located inside the Hampton Depot building on Main Street, is open Wednesdays, from 1 p.m., to 4:30 p.m.

Franklin opened the facility March 6, after repainting and moving artifacts found in other parts of the Depot to the museum. "I got the maintenance guy and a couple of other people to move the 1,500-pound safe, which is probably from the 1860s," she said.

The ticket counter was also moved into the museum from another room in the building, she added.

"The trophies were here," she continued. "They were actually taken out of the trash when they were thrown away at the elementary school. They were taken out by Bobbi McBrayer, and he got them to the depot. We found them up in the loft."

Bobbi McBrayer, who passed away in 2001, was the father of Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer, and the brother of Hampton historian, Richard McBrayer.

Franklin said the whiskey bottle was discovered during the city's streetscape project, done three years ago.

Several other items were lent to the museum by supporters. A painting of the depot, hanging on one wall of the museum, was donated by a local artist, Sue Wilson.

"She painted that years ago," Franklin said. "Her picture had been in a bank in Lovejoy. She lent that to us.

"We had somebody come in from Williamson [in Pike County] two weeks ago," said Franklin. "It's not real close, but he had seen the article a while ago about the museum, and he said that he grew up around here, and he had some pictures he's going to bring in."

Few people know the museum is even in existence, said Richard McBrayer. "We're just getting started," he said. "It's very important we get it going. It's not widespread yet, we're beginning to start."

McBrayer, who made a DVD of historic landmarks in Hampton, said he is selling the DVDs to raise money for the city's Downtown Development Authority. He stressed the need for preserving the community's history. "It won't be here, if we don't," he said. "Our grandchildren aren't going to know about it, if we don't save some of it."

The museum's daily operations will be aided by a $5,000 infusion of money from one of its supporters, said Hampton City Manager Andy Pippin.

"The City of Hampton got some funds from an anonymous source, to be used solely for seed money for a museum, be it restorations of our current museum. If we plan to move the museum to another location," he said, "we can use the money for that."

He said city officials were notified earlier this month that the money would be available.

An exact dollar amount required to operate the museum, however, is difficult to pin down, according to Pippin. "There is no budget for the museum," he said. "We basically operate off of donated items. We have volunteers that actually staff the museum a few hours a day."

Franklin said she depends on a core of workers. "I usually have two or three people, who come in to help out for a couple of hours at a time," she said.