History Center Dedication

O.C. History Center to open Aug. 1


LA GRANGE, Ky. – It's yellow.
That's the first thing you notice about Oldham County's new History Center, a Victorian house that sits across Second Avenue from the courthouse.

OC History Center

Photo by Don Ward

Oldham County
History Center.

Though yellow may seem an unusual color for a museum, officials believe the outer walls will pale in comparison to the offerings awaiting inside for visitors.
After years of planning and many months of renovation, the $1 million History Center will open Aug. 1, amid much fanfare. A dedication ceremony is scheduled, including a 1:30 p.m. ribbon cutting and a free weekend of visitation for guests. After that, the entry fee to the new museum will be $4 for adults, but remain free to the Historical Society's 242 members. Children ages six to 18 and seniors will be admitted for $3.
"The idea of the center is to serve as the official depository of county public and historical records," said director Patricia Michael. "But we also wanted an interactive place where people could come to do research and view original county documents."
The Historical Society's existing office next door will continue to serve as the library, archives and headquarters, said Michael, who was hired in October 1995.
Formed in 1959, the society joined forces with the county in 1991 to pursue a mandate to preserve county records. Then-mayor of La Grange, John Black, supported the effort from the start. Since becoming judge-executive, he has continued to back the project and is expected to take part in the ceremony.
Oldham County Fiscal Court has contributed $30,000 toward the renovation, which has been coordinated by local architectural designer Bill Lammlein. The rest of the money has been received through private donations, in large part from the Peyton Samuel Head family trust.
"It's been a full-time job for me for about 15 months," Lammlein said. "I consider it an important project – a way to preserve the county's heritage."
Lammlien, a former society board member, resigned his post when he was named to head the project to avoid any conflicts of interest. His objective has been to restore the building's structure to its original 1920 appearance. The inside of the house will be converted into a contemporary museum by a New York-based museum design company, as opposed to a "historic house museum," which would entail filling the building with period pieces.
"We didn't want to have to go out and find authentic pieces to decorate it," Michael said. "Instead, we wanted an interactive learning center-type atmosphere. The idea is to get a sense of the past but with current value and activities. It's a living thing."
The museum will house an interactive, fiber-optic map of Oldham County, plus a working model of the Interurban Electric Railroad that ran from Louisville to La Grange between 1907 and 1935. Several local people recorded information and anecdotes on the handsets to be used by museum visitors.
Outside, there will be three sculptures, also to be unveiled Aug. 1.
In addition, a $25-a-plate dinner is planned for July 30 at the Oldham County Community Center. The featured speaker is James C. Klotter, author of the book, "New History of Kentucky." The 7 p.m. dinner is open to the public.

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