A Look at the Past with an Eye Toward the Future

Article Published: Jan. 2, 2014 | Modified: Jan. 2, 2014
A Look at the Past with an Eye Toward the Future

The Daniel Boone Hotel sits across from the Appalachian Theatre on King Street in downtown
Boone. The hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and was
demolished in 1984.

Photo submitted

Throughout December, the Jones House Community and Cultural Center offered visitors a chance to step back in time in the life of downtown Boone, with its exhibition, “Windows Through Time: Stories of King Street and Downtown Boone.”

The exhibition is a collaboration between Appalachian State University graduate students from Andrea Burns’ “Interpretation in Museums” class and the town of Boone.

The project got its start when Virginia Falck, downtown coordinator for the town, approached public history professor Andrea Burns with an idea of putting together an exhibition at the Jones House.

Burns said the project “came together pretty quickly. The students began research in late August. The exhibit was installed the first week of December.”

The exhibition features historical photographs of downtown Boone and some artifacts of the town, including pieces of historical buildings, a film taken in the 1930s, and an old popcorn bag, piece of Art Deco glass and a movie ticket from the old Appalachian Theatre. The photographs in the exhibition are from ASU Special Collections, the Watauga County Public Library, Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, Inc., the Jones House, and some photos shot by the students.

Mark Freed, cultural programs coordinator for the town of Boone, noted that the history of the town should be important to everyone.

“How can we know where we are going if we don’t know where we’ve been?” he asked. “Our history is very important. It tells our community’s story and helps us put the present in context. Downtown Boone has been the hub of the county and community, so it is especially important both locally and regionally.”

Becky Dion, one of the students involved in the project, agreed on the importance of history. “The past should inform decisions about the future of Boone,” she said.

Burns said the space was the driving force behind the subject of the exhibition, because the Jones House is located in the heart of downtown Boone. And the woman responsible for preserving the house, Mazie Jones Levenson, became a focus, as well.

“The more we talked with the staff at the Jones House, the more we understood what a crucial role (Mazie) played in preserving this house for use as a community and cultural center,” Burns said. “Without her gift of this house to the town of Boone, it is very possible that this old house would have been demolished or altered beyond recognition.”

Even now, the house plays an important role in the community, Freed pointed out.

“The Jones House is a meeting and gathering place for numerous local organizations and meetings, private events and many opportunities for the public to get involved in the arts,” he said, noting that the “lawn and gardens of the Jones House provide one of the best green spaces in downtown Boone.”

Burns said the project explores the changing landscape of King Street since the early 20th century to present day. “We hope that local audiences and tourists walk away with not only an appreciation for Mazie’s work as an activist and a community leader, but also an understanding of the history of buildings on King Street,” she said.

Burns and Freed see this as the start of an ongoing relationship between the cultural resources department in Boone and the public history department at App State. “Although ‘Windows Through Time’ will end in January, our interest in working with, and listening to, the people and places of Boone is ongoing,” Burns said.

Freed said they plan to permanently install some pieces from the exhibition, so visitors will have an ongoing chance to learn about the history of Boone. Burns said a graduate student internship has been set up for spring semester, and they hope to pursue larger projects including more exhibitions at the Jones House and designing a downtown Boone walking tour app.

Dion noted the value of being able to apply classroom theories into action.

“By doing projects like this one in the public history program at ASU, I feel that I have become better prepared for life outside of academia,” she said. “There is no substitute for practical experience.”
The Jones House Community Center is located at 604 W. King St. in downtown Boone. For more information, call (828) 262-4576.

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