Aiken County Historical Museum – Aiken, South Carolina
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Located in downtown Aiken, the Aiken County Historical Museum features a wide variety of collections relating to the history of Aiken County, from its earliest settlers to today. The museum’s collection is housed in Banksia, a 1931 winter colony mansion.
Banksia is the former retreat of New York businessman Richard Howe. Part of the home was built in 1840, and additions were made during the 1930s. The museum, located downtown on Newberry Street, now occupies all 32 rooms of the house and is open free to the public.
On this 3.5 acre property, you will also find the Ergle Log House. It was built in 1808 and is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Aiken County.
Displays at the Aiken County Historical Museum
One of the most important displays at the Aiken County Historical Museum is called “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” It is a tribute to the people whose homes were destroyed in order for the Savannah River Site to be built. We do not have any photos of the display at this time, but if you can add one, please send it here.
This exhibit in the Aiken County Historical Museum shows a replica of Moody’s Drugstore, which was once operated by Henry Moody in adjacent Barnwell County. The sign on the exhibit tells the story of how this 1950s drugstore was almost entirely resurrected: “In 1952, the town [of Dunbarton] and surrounding area was bought by the federal government to develop the site for the Savannah River Plant. Rather than try to sell the store, Mr. Moody dismantled it, packed up the contents, and stored them in a barn on his farm. The fixtures and the merchandise stayed in the barn for 32 years until in 1984 the collection was donated to the Museum, giving a unique glimpse into life in a small southern town in the 1950s.”
H. Odell Weeks was the mayor of Aiken for 40 years. He retired in 1991, and passed away the next year. The Aiken County Historical Museum now houses this exhibit, a replica of his old office, complete with photographs, official recognitions, and memorabilia from his alma mater, Clemson University. The town’s Activities Center was named in his honor.
The one-room schoolhouse seen above was built in 1890. It was originally located in the neighboring China Springs community and was moved to the museum site in 1984. Visitors can go inside the building and imagine a school day during the late nineteenth century. The little red schoolhouse sits next to the Frederick Ergle Cabin, also seen above, thought to be the oldest home in Aiken County.
Banksia is listed in the National Register as part of the Aiken Winter Colony Historic District II:
Aiken Winter Colony Historic District II is significant as an intact collection of properties associated with the Aiken Winter Colony. The district includes properties constructed by winter residents and properties rented by winter residents. Also included is Willcox’s, an inn frequented by Winter Colonists and noted for its cuisine. The district consists of approximately one hundred properties constructed between ca. 1880 and ca. 1930, including residences, outbuildings, stables, racquet sport facilities, and an inn. The residences range from one-story cottages to large mansions with stables and other dependencies. Twenty-two of the properties are not associated with the Winter Colony theme but are similar in size and scale to many of the more modest properties and contribute to the visual qualities of the district. Many of the streets in the district are divided by grassy medians planted with trees and shrubs. Primary architectural stylistic influences include the Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Victorian, Tudor Revival, and Queen Anne.
Aiken County Historical Museum Info
Address: 433 Newberry Street SW, Aiken, SC 29801
Aiken County Historical Museum Map
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