It’s funny how quickly a search for one thing can morph into the discovery of another. I was looking for information on the three Blue Ridge Hotels, all of which were constructed on the same site(between Coldwell Banker and the Methodist Church on West Main Street), and all of which burned to the ground. I decided a good starting point would be the Fannin County Historical Museum – also known as The Baugh House. As it turned out, the museum only had one picture of the last hotel, with no further information available. But since I was already there, I decided to take a tour of the museum. Good call.
The structure was built in 1890 by James Walden Baugh for his new bride, Mary Geisler. Built with bricks made from Blue Ridge clay – four bricks thick – the structure was designed in the Federal vernacular. Two-stories, each floor has two main rooms with the kitchen heading eastward on the north end of the house. An L-shaped porch connects the kitchen and parlor. The Baugh’s had an extensive vegetable garden in the back yard and a cool root cellar to preserve the canned goods and produce.
In 1924, son James became quite ill. Mary’s brother, Dr. Geisler came rushing over and diagnosed acute appendicitis; summoning a fellow doctor from Ducktown, the two set about to perform an emergency appendectomy on the kitchen table. It was a success and after a long recuperation, James was as good as new. Daughter Eva Mae Baugh—who never married – was the last Baugh to live in the house.
Fast forward to 1987, the City of Blue Ridge, under Mayor Taylor Stanley, purchased the James Walden Baugh house. It took several years of volunteer labor and grants from Levi Strauss & Co. and the Department of Natural Resources. Volunteer labor was the backbone of the restoration, with much of the credit for the renewal going to Elizabeth Abernathy Simons and Lewis Simonds, who was the general overseer of the work.
There is no end to interesting artifacts in the museum – from period furniture pieces to exhibits of photos and books from the Mary P. Wellingham Industrial School for Girls. The school was in Blue Ridge, and was devoted to ensuring that graduates make suitable wives.(Not sure what that has to do with an industrial school…) There is a native Cherokee exhibit with a dizzying number of arrowheads in various shapes, sizes, and colors. A beautiful large loom, circa the 1930’s is on loan from the Fannin County Homemakers Council. There are several beautiful garments from the 1800’s through the Roaring 20’s.
Today, the museum is in the care of Kathy Baugh, who happily escorts you through the house and answers any questions you might have. Her love for the museum just exudes from Ms. Baugh. There was no question that we asked that she didn’t have the answer for. The museum contains original artifacts from the house, but it is also home to period pieces donated by long-time museum benefactor, Fedora Lewis Campbell.
The Baugh house is located at 411 First Street and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.