Saturday was the end of a long road for the Lyon County Historical Society, a day which had been 79 years in the making.
“The Lyon County Historical Society started in 1937 and we’ve been searching for a permanent home ever since,” Greg Jordan, executive director of the Lyon County History Center said. “We were in the basement of the civic auditorium for a number of years, then we were in the old Carnegie Library, the old public library — and we didn’t own either of those buildings — so a few years ago we decided it was time, had a capital campaign and now we’re in a new home.”
After four years of fundraising and planning, Jordan said he was feeling a mix of emotions as a ribbon cutting and Masonic building ceremony opened the center’s new home at 711 Commercial St. The time leading up to opening has been full of long work days and weeks.
“I’m feeling a lot of things — excitement, relief and joy,” Jordan said. “Truly, this has been a community project. It’s been a long-hour project for us here, to get the place up and running.”
Jordan said the downtown Emporia location is the perfect place for the new history center.
“We could not have picked a better spot,” he said “This is the action area of downtown Emporia. The DK 200 is here, the Granada Theatre, the Emporia Arts Council, the Emporia Chamber of Commerce, the CVB, new businesses, Casa Ramos, Tim Mohn and Gravel City — we’re all right here and it’s a very exciting place to be.”
The new center will allow the Lyon County Historical Society to hold more programming and adds additional space for showcasing artifacts.
“We’ll actually be able to do a lot more programming because of our space,” said Lisa Soller, curator, exhibit manager and exhibit coordinator. “Starting in January, we want to have a monthly program called ‘History Happy Hour’ that’ll be a different variety of topics like people who went on to do great things and went on to be nationally- or internationally-known. Or we could also do certain events about different businesses or buildings.
“We’ll also be able to do a lot more school programs — because we have the space — we’ll be able to accommodate 200 - 250 students at a time through all four floors. So we’ll be able to do some much grander things here at the history center.”
Soller said one of the artifacts the historical society wasn’t able to display in the past is a blue wall featured on the second floor of the new center.
“We have a stage backdrop from a one-room school and it almost takes up an entire wall,” Soller said. “It’s from the 1940s and the colors are brilliant. It was in the attic of the old location. They displayed it once and that was it, so we really wanted people to see it. There are only three business on it which are still around today — Groh Brothers, Emporia Livestock Sales and Roberts-Blue-Barnett Funeral Home.”
Soller said the historical society is still moving artifacts to the new location and will be able to feature new items regularly.
The history center will reopen Tuesday to begin normal operating hours, which are 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. Admission to the bottom floor is free and the second floor is $5 for adults, $2 for residents of Lyon County. For high school and college students, the cost is $1, while active and retired members of the armed forces receive free admission, as do children under the age of 6.
“I would like to give our gratitude,” Jordan said. “We have been blown away by the support we have received and by the support we continue to receive from the public. We couldn’t have done this without their support and that’s what makes this a community project.”