Mathews history museum  finds a home

Mathews museum site
The Mathews County Museum of History will be located in this Main Street structure, currently Dilly Dally Emporium, it was announced at the museum’s annual meeting Monday. Gathering Saturday at the site were museum directors and friends with current owner Karyn Austin. Front from left, Sandy Warhol, Cindy Roman and Josie Thorpe; back row, Nancy Twigg, Joice Small, Katherine Davis Small, Barbara Bass, John Caramia, Karyn Austin and Tom Karow. Photo by Elsa Verbyla / Gazette-Journal

Article courtesy of the Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal

The Mathews County Museum of History, the goal of a group of residents since 2014, has found a home.

John Caramia, a member of the organization’s board of directors, said the museum will be located in the Main Street building that presently houses Dilly Dally Emporium.

Speaking at the group’s inaugural annual meeting on Monday night at Kingston Episcopal Parish House, Caramia said the building dates to around 1935, has historic properties (including a Texaco star in its gable, denoting its original use as a service station), and encloses about 7,000 square feet of potential display and storage space.

He added that the Dilly Dally Emporium will continue to operate until the end of May. And then, “a great deal of work needs to be done before we can open to the public,” Caramia added. “This work will take many resources, both human and financial. We have only one opportunity to do this right, so that when we open our doors it will be something to be proud of.”

Caramia noted that the building has been well known in the community as the longtime home of The Craftsman Shop operated by Catherine Brooks, and that around 1940, it was Be-Jo Bowling Alley, operated by Robert Bertschy.

Before Caramia’s announcement, board chair Sandy Warhol welcomed the group of 46 museum members and friends who attended, noted that “tourism is a huge economic driver” and said the nascent museum has been “working with all the museums in Mathews, to work together to achieve more.” These organizations are now recognized by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, she said, which will publicize all of their events. She also complimented Caramia on leading the museum board through a strategic plan.

“Our plan was to move forward as a virtual museum, with exhibits traveling to schools” and other locales, Warhol said, but then “something happened. Tonight we are announcing a major step forward. You are here making history tonight” as the first people to learn of the location plans.

Museum treasurer Vicki Carter reported that May Faire, a fundraiser for the museum, has been a success in its first year, netting $8,000 in gross profits, and is on the way as the 2018 event is planned to bring in more revenue.

May Faire chair Nancy Twigg said this year’s event will be held May 5 on and around the historic Mathews Court Green, and will have an emphasis on the 1950s in the county. Maypole dance, classic cars, local musicians, Court House Players, a pound cake contest, old photo contest, food vendors and arts and crafts vendors will be part of this second annual celebration. She said May Faire is derived from two vintage Mathews County traditions: a Spring Festival, held annually during the 1950s and 1960s, and the May Days held for a century in every county schoolhouse, large and small.

“We treat it like a homecoming event for the citizens of the county,” she said. “May Faire will always be a special time to celebrate and remember.”

In other action, museum membership approved continuing terms for the 14 current members of the board of directors, with these officers: Warhol, chair; Edith Turner, vice chair; Elsa Verbyla, secretary; Carter, treasurer; and directors Barbara Bass, Caramia, Katherine Davis Small, Alexis Foster, Tom Karow, Forrest Morgan, Cindy Roman, Josie Thorpe, Twigg and Doug Wilton.

Roman stood up to urge the audience to get involved with the museum. “We are a handful of people and we are trying to get this moving. We need your help. This museum is going to help our county and is going to help us all. We are so fortunate to live in an area so full of history. We must take advantage of it, enjoy it and share it.”